One of my fondest images from childhood involves my mother sitting on the edge of my bed and reaching out to touch my hand just before I went to sleep. What we talked about those nights I no longer recall. But her calming presence remains vividly etched in my memory.
Now, with two girls of my own, I have tried to pass on the same kind of warmth and affection. I go in to their rooms every night and try to do something similar . A kiss on the forehead. A gentle hug. A stroke of the cheek. Something small to let them know that no matter what happened during their day, they are loved and cared for by me.
Research has long found a connection between touch and a young child’s confidence and security. Turns out, a mother’s touch is essential for adults, too. A study published in Psychological Science, has found that college students who were lightly touched were more willing to take financial risks than those who had not been touched.
Of course, I’m not trying to raise daughters who will play the horses or bet their savings on risky stocks. But I do want them to grow up psychologically healthy, with a strong sense of self and the courage to pursue their dreams.
Providing children with warm, physical contact shouldn’t end when they’re of a certain age, though some kids do become embarrassed by it. Fortunately, my kids still allow me to touch them. Even now, at the age of 12, my daughter Samantha is willing to hold my hand in public and allow me to kiss her at the bus stop. And my daughter Annie still gives me hugs and kisses in front of her friends.
Meanwhile, I continue to greet my mother with abundant hugs and kisses. Though she no longer sits at my bedside each night, she still gives me a warm squeeze whenever I see her. Perhaps those hugs are still doing me some good, too.