Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Physical Affection: III

Dr. Elizabeth R. McAnarney: director of adolescent medicine at the University of Rochester Medical School said, "Adolescents need touch to facilitate communication and convey caring. When children are no longer held and comforted by their parents, they may turn to their peers instead. There is almost no data on this, but I wonder if the increase in very young teenage pregnancy comes from the need to be held. They may be using sex for a nonsexual purpose." (‘A Case For Chastity", National Family Institute, 1994 p.45.)
Many fathers quit hugging their daughters when they are adolescents. After all, what would people think of a father hugging his teenage girl who has become a young woman? They may think that there is something inappropriate going on. In reality, not expressing appropriate affection may be related to the very thing they were trying to avoid.
William G. Dryer and Phillip R. Kunz commented on this subject by saying: "Certainly the absence of ways to express physical affection appropriately must be related in some way to the shocking rates of father-daughter incest in this country and the widely publicized correlation between homosexual men and emotionally aloof fathers. Some serious family specialists have encouraged more appropriate physical affection between dads and their boys, dads and daughters and other members of the family." (Effective Families, pp. 80-82.)
After a presentation to a group of teenagers in a Midwestern state, I visited with several youth and their leaders while waiting for my ride to arrive. I met two high school age girls who had been in attendance at the youth camp. Knowing I would probably never see them again, I expressed to them how much I enjoyed being at their conference, gave them a brief hug, and told them I loved them.
After returning home, I received a letter from one of these young girls. She said, "I thought you might want to know how much it meant to Misty and me when you talked to us after your presentation. It really made us feel good that you cared enough about to talk to us when you really needed to leave. And whether you knew it or not, we were touched so much when right before you left, you hugged us and then on top of that you said, 'I love you.' That meant a lot to both of us--thank you so very much." I wondered why this simple act of affection meant so much to this young sister. It began to make more sense as I continued reading her letter.
"When I got into the car, my father was angry about something, and he started degrading everyone. He didn't want to hear about our youth camp or anything that had happened. This really upset me, as I loved the program. It hurt me so much that I couldn't stop crying from 12:30 to 3:00."
She went on to describe her dad as a very good man, but one who had a bad temper and was very cold, showing her little love and affection. She doubted if he even loved her. I felt very bad for this young girl, and I began to realize why a simple hug and saying "I love you" meant so much to her. I fear for her, and all young girls in similar situations if a young man comes along and shows inappropriate affection.
Before we are quick to judge this father, let's ask ourselves if our own children really know they are loved. Oh sure--we say they know, but I have a strong feeling that my young friend's father really loves his daughter and just has a hard time showing it. He probably doesn't even realize his daughter has any doubts. When we do not express love to family members through hugs etc. they may question our feelings for them. Children need love, affection and kindness from their parents to feel secure.

In what ways do you show your children that they are loved?

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