Is there anything more comforting to a child than the gentle touch of a loving parent? It is said that touch can speak louder than words and that touch is our first language. How true! When a father cuddles his baby or a mother rubs the back of a crying toddler, their touch is saying in no uncertain terms, "I care." This quiet yet clear communication between a parent and child is powerful, and its positive effects on children cannot be overstated.
Research shows that babies will cry less if they are touched regularly. We also know that a parent's touch does more than simply comfort babies; it has actually been proven that it helps them grow and develop.
In one study, premature babies who were touched and massaged regularly by their parents gained more weight and were more active, alert and responsive than babies who were not massaged.
So remember, when you comfort your young child, regardless of her age, touch can play an important role in how you communicate your affection and support.
It is also important for parents to be in tune with their children, and to read the cues and clues that children give about the type and amount of touch that suits them at a particular moment. Sometimes too much cuddling will make a baby cranky; if this happens, it's time to back off. In fact, some children are naturally more reactive and sensitive to touch than others and at times may find too much touch overstimulating. They'll let you know when they need a break - your job as a parent is to recognize and follow their lead. Often, a casual touch on the shoulder is enough to let children know that you love them.
So read your child's cues, and remember that touch can speak louder than words. When it's used sensitively, it sends a powerful message of love and security.