Help your kids get in 'touch' with themselves
Our gut feelings and instincts are great tools and can help us effectively in filtering people
who come in ‘touch’ with our children every day. Yog Maya Singh tells us how.
A few years ago one of my friends had shared a post about not letting one’s daughters sit in the lap of any man, perhaps except the child’s father. Bits of advice like these abound on the internet and leave me feeling a bit sad each time. I do understand the gravity of the situation; of how young children, especially young girls in India are sitting ducks for sexual assaulters, rapists and paedophiles. So, is the answer then to not let your daughter/child sit on anyone’s lap? I feel, and I strongly feel that not all men should be painted in one simple brush stroke, it is detrimental for our children to lose hope in all men/humanity per se. To enhance and ensure the well-being of your child, you need to make sure that you understand the concept of ‘touch’ first as parents before teaching them about the good touch/bad touch concept.
Science says that a baby’s sense of touch gets developed in the womb itself, surprisingly as early as 16 weeks (4 months in the womb). The sense of touch is crucial for the development of the child’s motor skills, even language and cognitive skills (Having touched a thing helps you remember better what it is called). It also helps in socio-economic competency, meaning a child who knows how to use the sense of touch in a balanced way (neither cling on to anyone too tightly nor shrink if someone tries to touch them) often proves to be a good leader and attracts a lot of opportunities to lead from the front.
No-touch policies are working in schools across countries. However, the need of the hour is also to go to the root of the problem. We don’t need to rob children of the joys of touch; we also need to talk to adults as to what makes them want to touch someone inappropriately. Why do they violate a vulnerable person’s boundaries? At the risk of generalising, we need to ask more and more men (especially those on the verge of adulthood) if their boundaries had been violated as children. The violation needn’t only have been physical to be discussed, it could have been emotional as well. Many a time (except in the case of psychopaths) people who violate other people’s boundaries have had no idea how to channelise their sub-conscious/conscious anger at being violated themselves. I’m not trying to be the devil’s advocate here, but all I am trying to say is that we can stop many crimes from happening if we listen to the hurts of people who have been victims of any crime or neglect and abuse at home. We as a society need to work together, as one cohesive unit and provide an ear and a shoulder to the grown-ups if we want our children to remain safe.
In fact, many studies point that many men across the world are getting angrier and angrier because they are not able to channel their physical energy properly. Earlier almost every culture had rites of passage from teenage to adulthood where men were told how with great physical power comes great responsibilities, but now there’s only power but little sense of responsibility towards society. Women have more emotional energy while men have more physical energy. Though the act of targeting and hurting anyone, leave alone children cannot be justified, we also need to think about where the society is failing those men who need to attack/assault defenceless babies to feel powerful. We need to have some important conversations about grownups first, who channelize either their rage or their lust on to babies plus women and also men they perceive to be weaker than themselves. Both rage and lust (in fact any emotion that is out of balance) are ultimately subtle symbols of feeling powerless.
In psychology (as well as in spiritual circles) people often talk about inner child healing. Inner child is just that part of you (basically your consciousness) that you tried to suppress or ignore as a child just in order to survive. That means the subconscious often carries a heavy load of an unlived and unloved childhood. While men are often blamed for touching children wrong in a sexual way, women who haven’t worked on their inner child often lash out strongly at their own children, even beating them. However, women’s behaviour has for a long time been ignored in the name of maternal love. A child who is used to being beaten up at home might act violently towards another youngster. Many a time that is how bullying starts at school. Either the child to get back his/her power starts bullying/sometimes even sexually assaulting others or in many other cases goes to the other extreme and remains in victim-mode for a long time, constantly allowing others to violate their boundaries physically and emotionally.
It has been established that positive touch stimulates pressure receptors under the skin, lowering the heart rate. Being touched by a loved one helps in slowing down the breath, decreasing stress hormones and boosting the immune system. In other words, good touch is the bridge between one person and another. However, these days we are so focused on safeguarding our children from bad touch that we aren’t focusing enough on good touch.
Children find joy in being held. In fact, the feelings are mutual, for even the grown-ups like to hold babies. The nervous system of both the one being held and the one doing the holding are calmed, if the grown-up is full of love.
As a mother how do you figure out if the grown-up wanting to hold your baby is full of love? You do that by listening to your gut feeling about every individual who wants to hold your baby. It is said that the gut produces 90-95% of the happy hormone or serotonin. To access your gut feeling, you need to keep your mind free of clutter. For decluttering, you need to be in control of time; you should know how to live in the now. How do you take out time in this overly scheduled world? One of the simplest ways to bring time under your control is to ‘Say yes to things you like doing and say no to things that you don’t like doing’. I’m not talking about basic, everyday chores here, but important ‘doings’ like taking up a job you don’t like, spending hours at a function you don’t like, eating food that you don’t like etc. The moment you can say yes /no easily, your gut will begin to function properly (try this as an experiment) and will instinctively tell you whether or not the person touching your child is full of love or not. Slowly, the child will also begin to pick up cues. If the mother’s and father’s guts are healthy, the child will also have a healthy gut. Also, do teach your children about good vach (vachan/talks) / bad vach. People who mistreat children often are too much of sweet and smooth talkers or too harsh. You need to tell your kids about avoiding both kinds of people. One need not be judgemental, but one can surely possess good judgement.
I don’t know about you, but I do believe in the new studies that say that just like twins, mother and child can also often communicate without words. It is known as mother-child heart coherence in science. Both mother and child can pick up on each other’s energies. So if you find something off about someone, do let your child know too, no matter how young the child is. If you remove a baby physically away from someone even without saying a single word, the child will know there is a danger, for it trusts the mother. There is no need to go into the details with the child, however. That’s too much for a young child’s heart and brain to handle. If you have been working on your gut feeling, the child’s gut will get strengthened too, and it will know whether the person in front of them has good intentions or not. If you have grown-up children, share stories about the time listening to your gut feeling saved you.
Try this as an experiment and see if it works for you. And do read up on the net about the mother-child heart coherence concept.
A child starts having a separate identity around the age of 7. Their personalities and temperaments are said to have developed around that age. It begins yearning for a distinct identity from its parents but also has fears of being abandoned. They want to be known for their achievements at this age, but also want to hug someone in joy or pain, in the success or failure. In short, they want to be touched, but at their convenience.
This means that while till the age of 7, you need to rely more on non-verbal forms of communication to teach your child about the concept of touch, after 7 you can have a little more serious and open conversations with them and it is very important that we address our private parts by their proper names, i.e. the penis and the vulva (no, not vagina), so that children know it is nothing to be ashamed of when we talk about body parts.
Children of all ages need to be touched at regular intervals as a form of reassurance (before 7 even without permission by parents, but after the age of 7 even parents should ask for permission, though very informally). This can be a pat on the back, a high-five, a warm hug, just walking in the park holding hands, in short, whatever the child likes. You must have seen many videos on Facebook/YouTube where the teacher lets the student decide how he/she wants to be greeted each morning (fist bump, high-five, hug, a little dance, a handshake). Give your child the same choices at home (speak informal language though), touch him/ her whichever way he/she likes to be touched on a particular day. Some days they may want to snuggle, some other day they might just want to hold your little finger. If you can hold the child in your lap, do that when both of you are comfortable. But know that your child is never too old to put his/her head in your lap. A mother’s lap is the ultimate sanctuary in the world. Never underestimate the power of the ‘common lap’. Let them be touched within boundaries by good and loving people, it means a longer life. Sometimes when things get too much to bear (as much for children as adults), people just want to melt into a puddle in someone’s arms. Be that someone for your child (especially if he/she gets generally bullied or is a loner, shy person) and they will be able to understand the concept of good touch/bad touch. As I have said above, we are so focussed on teaching about what bad touch feels like that we often forget to teach them what good touch feels like. Remind them again and again what good touch feels like.
I don’t know how many of you are aware of the book called The Secret and the theory it propagates, namely ‘The Law of Attraction’. The theory says: What you focus on, grows in your life. Try experimenting for a few days and remind yourself that there are wonderful men out there who know how to treat baby girls (or women of any age) right and you will start seeing examples of such men around you. There are many women who are raising their sons right.
I might sound naïve to you when I talk about Law of Attraction, but my mother was exactly the kind of woman (like my friend) who tried to protect her daughters from wrong men, and in the end I ended up marrying (arranged marriage) the exact kind of person she had warned us against. Hope you get my point. In fact when I had met my ex-husband for the first time, my gut feeling told me he would be the violent types, but I ignored that voice because of parental and social pressure. Listening to my gut could have saved me from so many years of misery. In short, this is how Law of attraction works: What you resist persists after you and what you want to run away from, runs after you. Ever since I realised this I have only met nice men.
Be cautious about your babies being touched badly, but by no means be scared. Fear attracts the very thing in your life that you do not want to happen. Good Touch Se Na Bach!