The Championship Fathering blog by Carey Casey
I have a soft spot for dads who connect with their children physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Tweet this! And photos like this one will often unleash a flood of emotions and memories.
One such memory was visual, but also had touch and maybe even smell associated with it. I was reminded of how my dad—unsolicited—would kiss me on the forehead. In a way, I can still feel his scruffy whiskers and smell the slight whiff of that blue stuff called Aqua Velva.
There’s something special and irreplaceable about dads giving their children affirming, appropriate touch. Pulling our kids close sends them messages of affirmation like few other things we can do. Tweet this! A kiss on the forehead. A rub of the head. A bear hug. A squeeze on the knee. A fist bump. A pat on the back. An arm around the shoulder.
It changes through the years. With babies, it’s almost all about touch. You’re cuddling, carrying, dressing them, and changing diapers. Toddlers convey all kinds of signals they want physical contact. They grab your leg or stretch their arms up to you. They love to sit close to look at picture books or do puzzles.
Obviously, older kids don’t need as much day-to-day help, and may not seek physical interaction. But even as they grow, our children still need that affirming physical touch from their dad.
I do hope you’ll still occasionally grab your teenager and pick him up off the ground, like you did when he was three. You can’t throw him in the air anymore, but you get the idea.
Even brief physical contact can be meaningful. Give your son or daughter a smile and pat on the back as you pass in the hallway. And sometimes be intentional, like when you want to reinforce an accomplishment with a big congratulatory hug. Or maybe it’s a “just because” hug. Those can be the best of all.
If you’re having a hard time initiating a hug, make a verbal request. Say something like, “Got a hug for your old man today?” or even just, “Sweetie, I could really use a hug.”
They need to feel the warmth, the closeness. They need the security. That affirmation helps remove the stresses and pressures of life. It frees them to move on confidently with growing up and thriving in their own ways. It helps bring out the best in them, breaking down barriers. And often, physical touch brings smiles and laughs.
As I work with men today, I believe this is under-emphasized. Some dads might say, “Well, we just aren’t a touchy-feely family.” Or, “It doesn’t come natural for me.”
I get why people say that, but I believe it’s a poor excuse. It really isn’t about our comfort or what we’re used to; it’s about what our children need. Tweet this! And children do better when they have that regular, affirming touch from Dad. We all do.
So, no matter what, don’t let affirming touch fall by the wayside. It’s an important way to communicate, “You’re special to me.” “I want to engage with you.” Touch sends messages that we can’t communicate any other way.
Here’s your action point: hug your child and just hold on. Pretty soon they’ll start squirming, but keep holding on. There’s a 99 percent chance you’ll both be smiling or laughing just a few seconds later. And I’d say, try that one with your wife, too.
Let your family feel the love, dad. Tweet this! Give plenty of bear hugs and whisker kisses, and don’t stop.
Do you have any special or unique ways of affirming your kids physically? Please share your ideas below or on our Facebook page.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering (NCF), as well as a husband, father, and grandfather. He is author of Championship Fathering, co-author of It’s Great Being a Dad, and general editor of The 21-Day Dad’s Challenge. See more about Carey here.
NCF is a nonprofit organization seeking to improve the lives of children and establish a positive fathering and family legacy that will impact future generations by inspiring and equipping fathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. You can sign up for NCF’s Today’s Father Weekly email here.