Incorporating Healthy Touch in the Lives of your Teenagers

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There was a day I decided I should probably be a hugger.  It seemed to be what all the ladies do when they greet each other and maybe I was weird for standing just far enough away that we didn’t have to enter the embrace.  I’m pretty sure it happened upon entering my 30’s, about the same time when I couldn’t decide what stores were appropriate for me to buy clothing from.

Upon trying the hug thing and feeling insane doing so, I realized I’m better to just be who God made me to be and greet people without a hug, no apologies!

Of course, as happens, I’ve grown over the years and I’ve learned to appreciate that in the same way I don’t need to be hugged to feel loved, huggers do.  And so, when they start to go for it, I lean in and give it right back.  For them.  And it’s fine.  Because huggers aren’t all awkward and weird when they hug they just go for it and hold on tight and it’s a good thing.  It’s us non-huggers who make it all weird and which side do I go on and do I pat or just hold on and i’m backing away now….

Anyways, it turns out that I have one child who is just like me (we call him the touch-a-phobe), one child who is happy to share the love but wouldn’t need it especially and one who needs all the possible touching that could happen in any given day.  Back rubs and scalp massages and snuggled up way too close and still climbs right atop my lap even though he’s nearly as tall as I am.

I was thinking about it last night because for some of my bigs, touch has become an increasingly small part of their life.  There are some days between school and friends and sports, that I only see them for an hour or two in a day.  They no longer get tucked into bed where we would naturally stroke their hair and kiss their forehead.  They no longer snuggle up while we’re watching a movie and they certainly don’t lean in for a hug on their way out of the car and into the land of high school.

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But, I’ve surmised,  there has to be ways to incorporate good, natural and healthy touch into a teenagers day anyway.  Because I’m their mom and they might not need it but maybe I do.  (Because I miss them crawling up on my lap when they’re hurt and my touch having the power to make it all better!) And I’m kinda betting they do to, they just won’t admit it!  But it doesn’t come natural to me and so I work to incorporate it.  Here are a few ways I’ve come up with!

The quick back rub or arm touch

When my almost a man size boy comes into the kitchen on any given morning I try to reach out and give him a quick rub across the back and say good morning.  He doesn’t even notice that I’m doing it but it’s there.

When I have something funny or exciting to stay I’ll stop my kids and grab hold of their shoulders and have them look me straight in the eye.  The touch is there, but without feeling forced or weird.

If I have something sad or serious to say I’ll just reach out and touch their arm for a second so they know they need to listen.

Hugs as thanks

Many moons ago when my kids were horrible at saying thank you for dinner I made it a strict rule that no one leaves the kitchen without doing a few things.  First, you clean up your own dishes.  Second, you come right up to me and you hug me and say thank you for the dinner.

I don’t care if it’s a side hug or a quick draped arm around my shoulders or a full on embrace but you will not walk away without taking the time to acknowledge the person who just fed you.  Having to hug took away the ability they had at yelling to me on their way out of the room.  It took away the possibility of being able to bellow it from the next room if they forgot.  It forced them to have to show their appreciation up close and personal.  Now, it’s second nature.  They clean up and they hug and thank me.  I hope they always do.

Scalp Massages (aka Lice checks)

So, we had our fair share of lice in this house through my kids elementary school years.  It’s quite possibly the grossest thing in the entire world but the part of it my kids LOVE is when I have to pick through their hair for days on end making sure every last egg is gone.

We haven’t dealt with this for years now but every now and then they’ll still ask for what we’ve grossly and lovingly called Lice checks!  It means they lay on the couch with their head in my lap, or they sit down on the floor in front of me and I go through the process of checking their head.  Behind their ears and to the nape of their neck, all the way across their scalp and up to their forehead.

Of course, they no longer need me to be checking for lice as the days of close heads and shared ball caps are over, but they do appreciate the feeling of someone running fingers through their hair.  And let’s all agree we’d rather it be me than another girl!

The Tackle

This is my favourite and we only pull it out when it’s a perfect moment.  It’s when we full on embrace the touch-a-phobe when he’s least expecting it.  When he’s just standing there and we have every opportunity to wrap our arms around him tight enough so that he can’t get away.  To us it’s hilarious.  To him, it’s parents being weirdos.  But we’re cool with that.

We always end up laughing together.  The way he instantly freezes is remarkable and his thought process of, just don’t move and it will end sooner, don’t say anything or she’ll just keep going, kills me and it’s become a joke amongst us.  I wouldn’t do it if he didn’t laugh about it or hasn’t come to expect it every now and then.

These are things we’ve simply come up with and are trying.  Do you have any other ones?  How do you make sure your kids are getting enough good and healthy touch in the teenage years?  I’d love some more ways!


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