When planting a garden, one needs to follow a five-ingredient recipe: fertile soil, healthy seeds, favorable weather, lots of sunshine and plenty of water. Raising emotionally healthy children is very much the same. It too needs five ingredients: touch, choices, private time, time out and compliments. Watch your children grow in confidence, glow with happiness and beam with pride as you become an expert at planting the five seeds of emotional health in your child. The flowers in your garden will soon come into full bloom.
All babies need touch as much as they need food and sleep. It is well documented that children in orphanages who receive little or no tactile stimulation have a very high rate of mortality. This is because human beings cannot survive well without loving touch, just as they cannot live without food and sleep. Many hospitals have volunteers, usually senior citizens, who come in daily just to hold sick babies since it has been proven that this speeds up the healing process. These babies are discharged earlier than babies who are not held as much.
On the other side of the age spectrum are the elderly, who also need touch to maintain well-being. For that reason, both the elderly who hold the babies and the babies themselves thrive physically as well as emotionally from the program.
Some children haven’t received enough touch, usually due to specific circumstances. Perhaps the mother was ill after giving birth, and the care of the infant was given over to an unaffectionate caregiver. Perhaps the baby was propped up too often with a bottle and received inadequate physical and emotional stimulation. These children often fall into the category of “failure to thrive.” At home, or later in school, they feel and look sad. Sometimes they may act out to receive attention.
For many years I taught kindergarten. Today, these young charges are all grown up and married. Whenever I would happen to meet them or their mothers, they would inevitably remind me of “huggy buggy”time. Every morning, the children had a chance to receive a hug from me during circle time. I also never missed an opportunity to whisper into their ears how much I loved them. What a gift from Hashem they were! Later, if a child did a mitzvah in class, I would offer him or her either a second hug or a little prize. Most children chose a second hug.