I was going through our usual bedtime routine. I sat next to my oldest and I put my arms around him and began praying for him. Recently we’ve been focusing on prayer and important things to include in our prayer–Wow… Sorry… Thank you… and Please… anyways that’s for another post.
So, I was totally focused on trying to model this way of praying and including these things in my prayer.
Then it happened.
All of the sudden he reached for my hand. I was shocked!
You see he’s at that interesting tween age where he wants hugs from me but he doesn’t. So, I basked in that moment of tenderness that was exchanged between us. I’m still relishing it.
I wanted to prolong my prayer for another hour.
It was just so precious!
And that’s when I realized, I have a little man in my midst and one day not too far from now, I will be on my tippy toes giving him a kiss on his forehead. How did this happen? When did he stop wanting me to sing him a goodnight song? When did he stop bringing me wild flowers and dead bugs from his outdoor adventures? These moments have fluttered by and if I’m not attentive in the wink of an eye his hands will no longer seek mine for protection but instead they will have the strength to carry me.
Oh, how I miss those nose kisses. How he played with my hair, strand by strand as I prayed over him at night.
All I can do now is stop and relish these moments of affection when my not so little boy, forgets he’s too old to hold his mama’s hand but I hope that he will never forget that those hands love him, support him, encourage him, guide him, hold on to him, serve him and most importantly pray for him.
The research I share below is such a powerful reminder and encouragement to me of the importance to continue being intentional and reaching out to give him hugs, hold his hand, snuggle…
Why We Still Need to Cuddle With Our Tween Boys
Please note that I’m not talking about “love languages”. I’ve heard parents say, “Well his love language is not affection it’s gifts or time, so we’re good.” That maybe the case but what I’m sharing here is a NEED that our boys require for their growth–emotionally, physically and even cognitively. Our child’s love language may not be physical touch but they need the healthy physical touch in order to develop into strong young men.
Some years ago, I read the book, The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog by Dr. Bruce Perry. It’s a book filled with tragic stories from a child psychiatrist’s notebook. As a counselor myself, I was intrigued with the book and all of the stories. In one of the chapters he shares about Mama P. she was a foster mom who took in troubled children. She was not a doctor, a counselor nor a psychologist but Dr. Perry says that she probably taught him the most valuable lesson of all, the value of physical affection and stimulation in the healing of unspeakable trauma. Mama P’s “power” didn’t come from research and books, it came from her hugs.
Which brings me to my point, I must keep finding ways to show my boys healthy physical affection–it’s powerful! Powerful enough to bring healing to children when they face unspeakable trauma.
Our boys need our affection which is why I’m trying to be intentional about this with my little men.
Your affection doesn’t have to be in the form of hugs all the time, below I share some ideas.
Believe me your older boys still want affection even if they act like you have cooties. The picture above depicts this struggle, look at his face. Even when they pull away from you they still NEED it to continue to develop into healthy young men who are able to be intimate and connect emotionally with others. It’s crucial to their development. Tweens like to be pursued so keep on asking for and giving hugs.
Author and Doctor Laurie A. Couture says,
“We have an unspoken fear that we’re crossing a boundary when we’re physically affectionate with our adolescents,” Couture says. “And, kids feel awkward, so they push the parents away. But, really, in the adolescent years, children are the most vulnerable and most in need of the parent’s affection. There is nothing wrong with it.”
Our boys need health physical affection from us and even better if it’s coming from both parents. When they were babies physical affection was vital to their growth and brain development, but it is also of utter importance when they get older. Here’s a more recent study done by Dr. Joe S. McIlhaney Jr. to encourage you to also connect with your child as a teen because our brain has TWO phases of critical brain development one when they are young and one right before and during puberty. It’s more than just being caring and involved parents but an actual physical component is vital. Dr. McIlhaney Jr. states the following in his book titled Hooked:
“Research has shown that there are two periods in one’s life during which there is explosive proliferation of connection between brain cells–during the last few weeks before birth and just before puberty.”
You may not have received physical affection as a child or maybe as a teen this came to a halt, but don’t put this on your child. You need to decide that you’re going to be the one to change this in your family. This research is telling us that our boys need the “actual physical component” for their brain development.
As they get older we need to find new and acceptable ways to connect with them physically. Also, if they are older find ways to do the following when they won’t feel embarrassed. Like don’t give them a kiss on the forehead in front of their friends if this might embarrass them.
Here are ideas for healthy physical affection:
- Maybe it’s by patting them on the back.
- Giving them a kiss on the forehead (I find myself doing this more and more with my oldest).
- Giving them a back massage or rub (all of my boys love this form of physical touch).
- I like to gently play with their hair in the name of “fixing their hair”.
- A side hug.
- Holding hands on a walk.
- Hug their neck. Does that sound weird? It’s what I’m doing in the picture above, I’m coming in from behind and “hugging” his neck.
- While their sitting doing their homework or working on the computer come in behind them and rest your hands on their shoulders.
Dads get in there and play wrestle with your boys (yes this is a form of physical touch) and mom don’t stop them from doing this, even if it drives you nuts. I personally have to walk out of the room. But dad don’t let this form of play replace a good ole fashion hug.
Also, note your son may reciprocate the affection in other forms I share here how my son tackled me and called it “cuddling”. They may show their affection with a flower, a smile, a side hug, a note, complimenting something you love doing like your cooking (they really think you love doing this). Don’t take it personal when they don’t hug you and definitely don’t stop asking them for hugs.
This brings me to my exciting news!
This month of March, I’m going to kick off a series called, “All Things Boys the Art of Mothering Little Men!” We’ll start it off with a book chat going through one of my favorite books, Wild Things the Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas. I’ll get you the details later but for now the book chat will involve: a blog post, a Facebook group and a video chat! It’s all free!