“Remember to hug your kid today” – why have we always been told this?
King Frederick II of Germany performed a very interesting yet saddening trial. 50 infants were selected and he hired foster mothers to take care of them. They were strictly instructed to never cuddle, rock or talk to them. They were made to perform only the most rudimentary tasks. All 50 infants were reported to die – from the failure to thrive under these circumstances.
It was learned, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall that the orphans within Soviet bloc countries were living under deplorable conditions. Mary Carlson, a researcher from Harvard Medical School studied under an overcrowded Romanian orphanage.
She observed the number of neglected babies lying in their cribs, staff so overworked they were spread thin. Sadly, this lead to the infants only being touched when they were being fed.
The nursery was eerily silent, no crying, no babbling, not even a whimper. She went back two years later and discovered alarmingly high levels of a brain damaging stress hormone. They all seemed to be stunted in growth and a bit backwards in development for their age.
More recently, a young boy named Artyom Savelyev was briefly adopted and then returned to Russia, alone. He was reported to have severe psychological issues, all stemming from his early childhood in the orphanage.
On can surely conclude from these two individual observations that babies who aren’t shown affection not only fail to thrive, but they have been observed to even perish in extreme circumstances. This teaches us something vital – All human beings need love, affection and communication.
It’s been studied how touch lowers blood pressure and creates a soothing scene. A feeling of belonging, understanding an promoting growth on a number of levels. I’m sure we all want our children to thrive and excel, most of all, they should feel happy and secure.
American author and psychotherapist, Virginia Satir, sums it up: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” This surely hows how important talking to your child in the first three years of life can alter their development for the better.
Some astounding statistics to consider:
- Children from talkative families are likely to hear 30 million more words by the time they are three.
- The more words they are exposed to by age three, the better they score on cognitive tests.
- These same children score higher in third grade reading readiness tests.
- Talking to your children builds their trust, healthier relationships and social skills.
There are a number of activities that can kill these two birds with one stone:
- Start right from the beginning. Read and sing to them while in utero and rub your belly.
- From birth, hold and cuddle them while reading them a book, then discuss it.
- Play games like London Bridges, Duck Duck Goose, and other games that incorporate words and physical contact.
- Rock and sing to them.
- Play identity games like naming body parts and family members.
- Don’t be afraid to read the classics or scriptures to them. Though you believe they may not comprehend, they are being exposed to those millions of words that will enrich their future vocabularies and make them better students.
- Just sit and talk to them about your day, touching them often.
- Utilize older siblings, grandparents and other family members to supplement these activities when you are swamped.
- Even when children are older, find at least a few moments each day for a one-on-one chat.
At the end of the day, we all want successful, happy children. Find every opportunity to hold them, cuddle them and talk to them. Discuss things with them. This habit will become second nature if you start – your well developed, happy adult “child” will thank you one day and it will all have been worth it!
Thank you to Family Share for the inspiration behind this article