I once heard a brain consultant by the name of Fritz Mengert say that if he had to choose between putting his grandchild in a day care center where teachers rock, hold, and hug children or one where academics are emphasized over all else, the decision would not be a difficult one. He would put his grandchild in the first one. We all know there are plenty of smart but crazy people in the world, don’t we? The brain stands its best chance for growing normally and being healthy if it is nurtured.
Did you know that touch is a basic requirement for optimum health? Babies who are deprived of touch will not develop in normal ways. At birth, only one-fourth of a child’s brain is developed. From birth on, every time a baby is fed, held, played with, talked to, sung to, or read to, the additional 75% develops. Children who have never been rocked, hugged, touched in positive ways, and told they matter can grow up without the ability to empathize or sympathize that healthy brains develop.
Human touch encourages healthy brain development. Networks of neurons, or brain cells, grow out of our experiences with sense and start forming patterns for learning. However, it doesn’t matter how much children are loved by others such as grandparents or nannies; in the end, children need to know that they are loved by their parents first and foremost.
- Take time to rock, hug, and love your newborn. Continue this practice through your baby’s early life. Babies who do not hit certain emotional milestones due to lack of touch may have difficulty learning to speak, read, and be successful later in school.
- As children grow older, they do not lose their desire for positive interactions. Those interactions, however, may need to take a different form. Give your older children high fives, pats on the back, and other forms of endearment. It will make a difference in your relationship with them.
- According to mental health professionals, people need approximately 12 positive interactions each day to thrive, 8 interactions to maintain their current state, and 4 interactions simply to survive. Positive interactions include things such as smiles, hugs, handshakes, high fives, I love yous, and other affirming comments. Think of all the children who do not get a single positive interaction before heading to school. Is it any wonder the incidence of children with depression is increasing?
Make a conscious decision today to commit or re-commit to giving your children the positive interactions they need to encourage healthy brain development. Learn more about the importance of nurturing your child in my bestselling book, Preparing Children for Success in School and Life: 20 Ways to Increase Your Child’s Brain Power.