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{Peaceful Parenting} The Power of a Parent's Touch: Adding Tenderness to the Routine Tasks of Childcare

by Kara Fleck

Touch is a powerful thing, especially a parent’s touch. It is likely you’ve seen the power of a parent’s touch in action.  Babies are soothed when folded in loving arms, tears are chased away with a hug, a gentle squeeze of the shoulder that reminds an antsy child to sit still just a while longer, or how a parent’s large hand wrapped around a child’s small one can provide an extra boost of courage. We know that touch matters. 

So, let me ask you a question I recently asked myself:  when was the last time you slowed down enough to connect with your child, not just through words, but through a loving, intentionally tender touch? 

We touch our children often, of course.  But how many of those connections are made on auto-pilot?  What if we put more intention into our tasks as loving caregivers?  How can we add tenderness to the routine tasks of childcare? 

I look back on my time as a new mother and those first days of my oldest daughter’s babyhood and every touch seemed so special and singular in time. Moments were strung together like so many precious gems.  It seemed that I spent hours caressing her soft cheeks, holding her tiny hands, and memorizing everything about her from her little toes to her soft, wispy hair. 

photo: cgindy.comphoto: cgindy.com








Eventually those singular moments we have as parents give way to the routines we develop as we care for our children.  Baby grows and the days blend together and stretch into months, years, and before we know it, neither children nor moments stand still in time any longer, but instead rush by us.  All too soon the hours spent rocking our child, caressing the backs of their chubby baby hands, linger only as memories. 

Being mindful of every single interaction is, of course, a pretty tall order and not possible or necessarily practical (something I readily admit as a mother to four children, three of them under the age of five).

Yet, those moments are still there, precious treasures buried in our days, and if we can make it a habit to unearth and savor even just a handful of them each day, we’ve gained so much as parents and given so much more back to our children. 

Hugs, kisses, chubby baby belly zrrrrrrrbrrrrts are all wonderful ways to shower your child with affection, and I do hope you are indulging in these as often as possible.  However, I would also like to encourage you to be mindful of the host of other small opportunities to be tender toward your kids each day. 

When I give extra thought to a simple, repeated task such as braiding my daughter’s hair every morning or giving the baby a bath each evening, I am more careful to slow down and focus on that moment, that time together.  These moments become anchors in our day, even a sort of family ritual.  Even though I have given hundreds of baths, each becomes its own special moment observed with focus and intention. 

When I carry out those tasks focusing on tender touch and feeling the love I have in my heart for my child, that seemingly mundane moment becomes a gift to us both. 

photo: jatawny m. chatmon

Consider these opportunities to be mindful in your touch as you care for your child:

  • brushing their hair
  • cleaning their face
  • getting them dressed, putting on their pajamas
  • lifting them into their high chairs or booster seats
  • tucking them into bed
  • tying their shoes, helping their feet into their boots 

It can be easy to overlook these chances to show affection as so many of the activities involved in the care of our children are repeated (and repeated) until we can go on auto-pilot doing them. 

Instead, think about what might happen if we choose to let these moments become another chance to nurture our children. Just as you make efforts to prepare wholesome meals for their bodies, make a conscious effort to perform these routine tasks with love. 

This doesn’t just apply to babies and toddlers. Big kids and teens need that connection, too – a gentle squeeze on the shoulder, a tussle of their hair, holding their hand: much can be conveyed through a simple gesture. 

One of my favorite ways to end a busy day is to sing to lullabies to my children as I’m tucking them into bed. Can you imagine how safe and wonderful it must feel to a child to be sung to as they drift off to sleep, perhaps with a caress of the cheek or a back rub? 

As the Chinese expression goes, the days are long but the years are short.  These years with our children as so fleeting.  Finding moments in the day to slow down, connect, and mindfully touch our children will leave an impression that will echo throughout their lives. 

This mother hopes that when I am no longer there to hold their hands or sing them to sleep, the moments will still be there for them, treasures buried not just in our days together, but deep within their hearts.

photo: lauren rosenbaum 

Kara Fleck is the editor of SimpleKids.net  She lives in central Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children.  


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    Peaceful Parenting The Power of a Parent's Touch: Adding Tenderness to the Routine Tasks of Childcare - Summer 2012 - bamboo magazine :: whole family living

Reader Comments (10)

My husband's love language is touch so he does this so naturally with our daughter. I, on the other hand, have to be much more conscious about remembering the power of touch.
Jul 13, 2012 at 4:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteph
Kara, this is a wonderful reflection. As health issues have forced us to concede that one child might be all we are able to realistically care for, I have found myself savoring our moments and days in ways my peers often don't. Though the loss of the family we imagined has been difficult, the way we now treasure our time has been a gift.

Despite all that, I still find myself moving through things like "face washing" with the intent of getting done, rather than of showing love. Thanks for the reminder!
Jul 13, 2012 at 4:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterSarah G
What a great article. I love spending time with my 2 year old, but I think these magical moments for her are just as meaningful for me. I instantly feel better during our dance sessions, or holding her hand as we walk slowly through the zoo.
I need to remember to continue to make these connections as she gets older, for the both of us!
Jul 13, 2012 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterSarah V
Wow!How timely for me.! Ivery recently realised that I was not just hugging my kids enough. We had always been so affectionate but I had become very overwhelmed with, well,everything! Anyway, I took a breath and made an effort and hey presto!!! I am enjoying my children (6,4,2) so much more and our relationships are so much improved.There are here and now benfits as well as the beautiful memories
Jul 14, 2012 at 6:09 AM | Unregistered Commentermarjie
So very true- as the parent of a child with behavioral issues, I've learned that taking the time to touch my child's shoulder gently while speaking, helps her focus on what I am saying, how looking her in the eyes and giving her a hug helps diffuse her anger and frustration, and how a back rub at bedtime makes the transition to sleep so much less of a challenge than it used to be!
Jul 14, 2012 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatty M
I often hug and touch for affection but hadn't considered extending daily routines to touch, like with putting on shoes. I do give him a hug whenever I lift him up or down, sort of like stealing an extra hug here and there hehe.
Jul 15, 2012 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterSleeping Should Be Easy
I think this is such an important reminder. My guy is still very little, not quite two, so it's easier to be tender with him throughout the day since he has so may physical needs to attend to. Even so, an extra cuddle while reading or gentleness when helping him with his socks is always lovely for both of us.
Jul 16, 2012 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterMegan
This has been something I have been mindful since day one. I always felt safe and loved when my parents held my hand, rubbed back or squeezed my arm as they walked by. I want to give that same feeling to my sons. I think it's important to connect this way to build an even stronger bond. This world is big and it can be scary. Having a place with people that make you feel supported, strong, confident and loved goes a long way.
Jul 17, 2012 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterMel@TheDizzyMom
My husband's love language is touch so he does this so naturally with our daughter. I, on the other hand, have to be much more conscious about remembering the power of touch.
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