Expressing Affection (part 2 of 5)

This is part 2 of a 5-part series

Researchers tell us that we need 8 to 10 meaningful touches a day to thrive. Many children—and adults, for that matter—are starved for healthy, positive, appropriate physical attention. Dr. Ross Campbell claims, “In all my research and experience I have never known of one sexually disoriented person who had a warm, loving and affectionate father.”1

The power of being there is more than just our presence; it is also our touch and affection. Do your kids know you love them? Of course they do. But they still need a hug and a verbal “I love you” on a daily basis. If you didn’t come from a family that displayed affection, then you might have more difficulty being affectionate, but your children still need the reassurance and blessing of your affection.

I once wrote a book to students on the topic of sex and dating. Immediately the calls started coming in, usually from mothers who were nervous about their children. They wanted me to meet with their teenagers and fix any problem they were having with their sexuality and relationships. This, of course, was ludicrous; but during that season of my life I met some of the most persistent parents in the world. One mother of a 17-year-old sexually promiscuous daughter called at least 20 times, and my assistant finally pleaded with me to take the appointment so that she could quit spending so much time on the phone with this mother.

On the day of their appointment, we were all a bit curious to see what was going to happen. I must admit how surprised I was to meet two of the nicest parents I had ever met and a beautiful girl with a very pleasing personality. Through our conversation, I confirmed that the girl had become quite sexually active. She was a Christian and felt some remorse, but I really couldn’t get to the core of the issue. I asked the mom and dad to step out of my office because I wanted to talk with the daughter by herself. She was pleasant and willing to talk, but she didn’t want to talk about her sexuality. She wanted to talk about her father.

She said, “I used to be so close to my dad. When I was younger, he would play with me and toss me in the air. I would snuggle on his lap, and he would read to me and do magic tricks. When he would come home from work, he would always give me a hug and say ‘How’s my little princess?’” Then her lip began to quiver, and she looked away from me, saying, “I guess I’m not his little princess anymore.”

I had heard enough. I brought the mom and the dad back into the room. I asked the dad, “How’s your relationship with your daughter?” He looked over at her with obvious love and the first hint of tenderness I had seen from him and said, “We used to be close. I would play with her and read to her and pick her up in the air and call her my little princess.” Now it was his turn for his lip to quiver. Maybe it was hereditary! He looked at me and added, “Then when she got to be about 13, her body started changing, as well as her attitude, and it was just more difficult.”

I looked him right in the eyes and said, “My friend, if you don’t take the time to hug your daughter with appropriate hugs often, there are hundreds of boys who would love to hug her with inappropriate hugs and more.” She needed to be his little princess now more than ever.

Children need to experience touch and affection from their parents, or they will look for a counterfeit as they get older. Jesus took the little children in His arms and blessed them. Touch is a major form of blessing. In the Bible, when parents blessed a child, they very often placed loving hands on the child and embraced them. There is power in touch. If you come from a home in which you did not receive much affection or touch, then it may be difficult for you to pour on the affection. You don’t need to move from stoic to mushy, but there is a happy medium that may require you to stretch your comfort level for the sake of your children.

After a seminar, one man told me, “You just don’t understand how difficult it is for me to hold my three children. I grew up in a home where my very formal parents never hugged us kids. My dad showed his love by working hard and bringing home an excellent paycheck, and my mom showered her love on us with wonderful home-cooked meals.” I think he was looking for me to excuse him.

I replied, “I’m very sorry that you did not receive the power of physical touch in your home growing up, and yet it sounds like you came from a home where your parents did the best they could do.” He nodded in agreement.

I continued, “Now you can be the transitional generation and pass on to your children the love you received from your parents and the power of touch. No one said parenting would be easy, but you now know better. It will get easier.”

His wife smiled and said, “He’s going to need quite a bit of practice.”
“Great,” I agreed. Turning back toward the man, I said, “It sounds like you have three little ones you can ‘practice’ with and probably your wife could use a hug more often also.” His wife nodded in agreement. I’d bet everyone in his family received a hug that day.

1 Ross Campbell, M.D., How to Really Love Your Child (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), p. 73.

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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

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