Sneaking in Snuggles: Using Nurturing Touch with Older Children

January 14th, 2014 by Dionna | 14 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Use Nurturing Touch

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Welcome to the January 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: The More Things Stay the Same

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about the continuity and constancy in their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Mama and Kieran 23 mos

When Kieran was a toddler and preschooler, he was the most loving, affectionate kiddo ever. He constantly told me “I love you, mama!” and toddled over for hugs and kisses. I’ve never admitted this out loud to anyone, but he said “I love you” so much that I got tired of saying it back. His outward show of affection felt so excessive that I grew weary of returning the gesture.

{Yes, I’ve worried that those feelings make me a monster of a mother.}

He was also a voracious nurser. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you know that Kieran nursed well past the “normal” cut-off age of breastfed babes in the U.S. Even after breastfeeding ceased being a real source of nutrition, nursing was meaningful to him. It gave him love and comfort and warmth and security.

But during the course of his 5th year, sometime after he weaned and began to find other ways to fulfill his need for love and security, he also drastically reduced how often he hugged me, kissed me, and said “I love you.”

Now, I get that part of this is normal. Our culture does not typically promote displays of affection, which has some bearing on how kids perceive giving and receiving love. Statistically speaking, most parents hug and tells kids “I love you” less as the kids get older. A study reported on Parental Warmth and Affection showed that “over 90 percent of mothers and fathers report hugging their children ages three and under on a daily basis, compared to 74 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers hugging children ages 10 to 12.”

There’s also a biological component – there is a reason babies and toddlers have big eyes and little pursed lips – we are biologically driven to love and care for baby features. (Really! Read Why Are Babies Cute? for more.) So as those baby features turn into kid features, we’re less inclined to give them all of those hugs and snuggles and nuzzles we did when they were tiny.

But regardless of the reasons, and despite the fact that I used to internally cringe when Kieran said “I love you, mama” for the 72nd time in one day, I find myself missing all of those hugs and kisses and words of love. I mean, who wouldn’t?!

So as part of my 2014 goal in connecting with others, I’m going to make a much more conscious effort to show and tell Kieran how very much he means to me, and how much I love him. (Read 9 Ways to Create Moments of Connection with Older Children.)

Last night, for example, I brought him up into my lap as I would hold a baby – snuggled in close. I swayed back and forth with him for several minutes, not talking, not reading, not doing or expecting anything. The feeling of connection and love as he melted into me was almost tangible.

Family Rules 8

I’ve also started asking him for kisses, since he so rarely offers them anymore. In our “Family Rules” list we made last year, one of the “rules” we came up with was “kisses are required on days that end in -y.” The rule was more tongue in cheek than anything – we just meant that affection and connection were important to us. But Kieran has actually brought it up at least twice on his own in the months since we came up with the list. Affection is obviously on his mind.

Sneaking in Snuggles: Using Nurturing Touch with Older Children

Really, in writing this and reflecting on Kieran’s personality, it’s hit me how much his desire to give and receive love is part of his sensitive nature. Kieran has always been such a gentle soul, I’d hate to think that I would have any part in destroying that in him with my less sensitive nature. I want to nurture my son’s gentleness, his capacity for kindness, and his security in showing love. Because giving and receiving love and affection has been so important to Kieran, it is important to me that we continue to do so.

How has affection and “using nurturing touch” changed for you and your children as they’ve gotten older?

More resources on attachment parenting with older children:

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon January 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • Always an Artist — Some kids take longer than others to come into themselves, so you have to stick with them, as a parent, long after everyone else has given up, writes Douglas at Friendly Encounters.
  • Not Losing Yourself as a First Time Mom — Katie at All Natural Katie continues to stay true to herself after becoming a new mom.
  • Using Continuity to Help Change {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs from A New Day talks about how she is using continuity in certain areas of her life to help promote change and growth in others.
  • Staying the Same : Security — Life changes all the time with growing children but Mother Goutte realised that there are other ways to ‘stay the same’ and feel secure, maybe a bit too much so!
  • Harmony is What I’m AfterTribal Mama gushes about how constant change is really staying the same and staying the same brings powerful change.
  • A Primal Need For Order and Predictability – And How I Let That Go — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she overcame her primal need for order and predictability once her awareness shifted, opening her eyes to the impact this had on her young daughter. Take a short journey with Jennifer and she bares her soul, exposes her weaknesses and celebrates her new outlook and approach to living life, even in the face of total chaos.
  • Breastfeeding Before and After — Breastfeeding has come and gone, but Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow finds that her relationship with her son is still just the same and just as good.
  • A Real Job — Back in high school That Mama Gretchen had a simple, but worthwhile career aspiration and today she is living her dream … is it what you think?
  • Comfortingsustainablemum never thought she would want things always being the same, but she explains why it is exactly what her family wants and needs.
  • ‘The Other Mums’ and The Great IllusionMarija Smits reflects on the ‘great big magic show of life’ and wonders if it will continue to remain a constant in our lives.
  • Unschooling: Learning doesn’t change when a child turns four — Charlotte at Winegums & Watermelons talks about the pressure of home education when everyone else’s children are starting school.
  • Finding Priorities in Changing Environments — Moving from Maine to a rural Alaskan island for her husband’s military service, Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work found that keeping consistent with her priorities in changing environments can take some work, but is vital to continuous health and happiness.
  • Keeping it “Normal” — Kellie at Our Mindful Life has moved several times in the last two years, while doing her best to keep things stable for her kids.
  • The Evolution Of Our Homeschool Journey — Angela at Earth Mama’s World reflects on her homeschooling journey. Homeschooling is a constant in the life of her family but the way in which they learn has been an evolution.
  • Sneaking in Snuggles: Using Nurturing Touch with Older Children — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s son was a toddler and preschooler, he was the most loving, affectionate kiddo ever. But during the course of his 5th year, he drastically reduced how often he showed affection. Dionna shares how she is mindfully nurturing moments of affection with her son.
  • Steady State — Zoie at TouchstoneZ writes a letter to her partner about his constancy through the rough sailing of parenting.
  • A Love You Can Depend On — Over at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, Jennifer has a sweet little poem reminding us where unconditional love really lies, so it can remain a constant for us and our children.
  • Same S#!*, Different Day — Struggling against the medical current can certainly get exhausting, especially as the hunt for answers drags on like it has for Jorje of Momma Jorje.
  • New Year, Still Me — Mommy Bee at Little Green Giraffe writes about how a year of change helped her rediscover something inside herself that had been the same all along.
  • One Little Word for 2014 — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs has decided to focus on making things this year, which is what she is loves, as long as she doesn’t kill herself in the process.
  • The Beauty of Using Montessori Principles of Freedom and Consistency — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the continuity of her teaching, parenting, and grandparenting philosophy using a combination of freedom and consistency.
  • My Husband’s MiniCrunchy Con Mom shares which of her sons looks more like her husband’s baby pictures — and the answer might surprise you!
  • Growth Happens When You Aren’t Looking — Lori at TEACH through Love is treasuring these fleeting moments of her daughter’s early adolescence by embracing the NOW.
  • A New Reality Now – Poem — As Luschka from Diary of a First Child struggles to come to terms with the loss of her mother, she shares a simple poem, at a loss for more words to say.
  • Making a family bedroom — Lauren at Hobo Mama has decided to be intentional about her family’s default cosleeping arrangements and find a way to keep everyone comfortable.
  • New Year, Same Constants — Ana at Panda & Ananaso takes a look at some of the things that will stay the same this year as a myriad of other changes come.
  • I Support You: Breastfeeding and Society — Despite how many strides we’ve taken to promote “breast is best,” Amy at Natural Parents Network talks about how far we still have to go to normalize breastfeeding in our society.

14 Responses to:
"Sneaking in Snuggles: Using Nurturing Touch with Older Children"

  1. Mother Goutte   mothergoutte

    Bravo ;) I’m a big advocate of hugs to children. I still give lots of hugs to all of mine (age 2, 5, 9 and 11), even if it became near physically impossible to hold in my arms or have on my lap the two oldest!!

  2. Douglas Blane

    Great stuff, thank you. I love “kisses are required on days that end in -y.” As a dad with two sons, the hugging stopped for us around adolescence. Young lads find it embarrassing. It’s a shame. Nurturing “gentleness, capacity for kindness and security in showing love” is a wonderful aim. All the best.

  3. Oh, I love this! I am such an affectionate person by nature, and it is something that I’ve really felt like I had to work to keep up with my older kids. They are so darn BUSY! It is hard to get them to be still long enough to give them a kiss, let alone a hug. Yet, when I do get hold of them, they clearly love it. One way that we have worked at having more physical affection is to alternate who gets to sit next to me when we read at bedtime (I only have one side because the baby is always on the other). I have it on my Google calendar whose night it is.

    • I don’t have that problem at the moment – Kieran is still right next to me ;) But I do need to remember to have him snuggle up more often when we read books, etc. Usually Ailia claims the prime lap real estate, and I know Kieran wishes he had more time there!

  4. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    I sometimes have worried Mikko’s too affectionate, too! And then wondered what’s wrong with me. So it’s not just you! I love the idea of being intentional about cuddling our kids as they grow. I’ve been doing that informally the past few months but will take your cue to make it a resolution for the year, particularly to be the one to initiate.

  5. This is lovely post and you are right that we do stop to snuggle children as they get older. My eldest is affectionate which I am immensely grateful for as I still love to cuddle etc despite the fact that he is really tall already :)

  6. Angela   EarthMamasWorld

    Thank you for writing this Dionna. My son, 8 yo, used to be a huge snuggler but now he no longer tolerates hugs and kisses from anyone except me (no kisses on his lips!) and he rarely gives kisses. He,like Kieran,is very sensitive and still craves the closeness so I lay with him at bedtime every night once his sisters are in bed so we can enjoy a few quiet moments where we can reconnect.

  7. JW   TrueRealMommy

    I have started doing reading time with L1 after the littles are off to bed with Daddy. It gives us the chance to snuggle up and for him to show off his new skills. I love it. I just close my eyes and hold him close, listening to his voice. I have to remind myself to be affectionate with my kids, because I just don’t remember that from my parents.

  8. All Natural Katie   allnaturalkatie

    I have been telling myself lately to enjoy every moment with my 9.5 month son. Time passes too quickly and he is growing so quickly that I want to savor every moment. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy the now.

    And YES! Lots of kisses and hugs for the little guy. Even though there will be a period when he’s older that he won’t want the affection, I think it is still important to continue to show it.

  9. Lulastic   Lulasticblog

    Ahhh, what a beautiful post. Love that image of you two just melting in to each other.
    Ramona is 3 and can not get enough touch- can’t even imagine this ever to change. But I know it will. A great reminder to soak it all up now!

  10. Charlotte   Winegums_Melons

    What a lovely post. My boys are still small so I think I take for granted all the kisses, cuddles and snuggles! I know I’ll miss it when they’re older :( xx

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