Monday, August 13, 2007

Physical Affection

Physical Affection
A few years ago I attended a talk given to about 350 teenagers by a very popular youth speaker. The message was well presented and the youth seemed to respond positively. However, the speaker’s strong point was not what he said that day. I noticed he had a unique ability to radiate love for his audience. After the class ended, something happened that puzzled me a great deal at the time and for months following the experience. I saw several teenagers going to the front of the room to talk to the speaker. I noticed that instead of the traditional handshake, the speaker hugged each of the youth, patted them on the back, and told them how special they were. At first only a small group of teens got this special attention.
Then something very unusual happened. Those leaving the building noticed what was happening at the front of the room. Most turned and went to stand in line for their opportunity to "talk" to the speaker. A long line extending along the wall to the back of the room formed with youth waiting their turn to get a hug and uplifting words from this dynamic teacher. Many of the teenagers actually burst into tears after their short embrace. Puzzled, I asked myself why these youth wanted to meet the speaker and why so many were emotional after a short embrace. Was it the talk he had given? The talk was very good, but I had heard many great youth talks but none had produced an outcome like this.
As one young man walked away from his embrace in tears, I decided to talk to him. He had a fake earring and bleached blond hair that stuck out about eight inches in the front. He appeared by all outward signs to be struggling a little with his self-worth. I asked him why he was so emotional. He replied with emotion in his voice, "I don’t know. I guess I have never felt love like that before in my life. I wondered to myself if this young man was an orphan. How could he have gotten a five second hug from a brother that he had never seen before felt love like never before? Where do his parents fit in this story?
It was obvious that it wasn't just the talk that had such a dramatic effect on the youth that day. It was the physical embrace and the words of encouragement from the speaker that got to their emotions. After talking to many of the youth I think I have a better idea of what happened that day. I believe that those who were most visibly affected by the speaker’s show of affection were those not getting enough in their own home. I wondered if there was a connection between little or no affection in a youth’s home and the high rates of immorality in our society.
Failure to give appropriate physical affection to family members may lead them to seek it outside of the home in inappropriate ways. One young woman summed up the problem with these words: "Never once did I see my mom or dad show any physical affection towards each other. There was no hand holding or kissing in front of the family. Neither did my father ever once hug or kiss me or tell me he loved me. I think it was the same for my siblings. The only time I remember my mother giving me a brief hug was when I was leaving for college. I think we were all starved for affection and went seeking it outside the home."
We live in a very challenging time. Our children will face temptations and trials that many of us would never have imagined in our day. It is not just the drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, inappropriate media, cliques etc. that they must deal with. Think also about the fear of rejection, weight issues, peer pressure, homework, education plans, career choices, dating, etc., etc. More than ever they need a friend. But in an effort to have our children better than us, we often point out their faults.
I read a university research report many years ago that estimated a typical teenager hears ten negative comments for every one positive. One of my friends told me that on her son’s fourteenth birthday, she was pointing out a few things he needed to work on to become a better person. He finally asked, "Mom, is there anything you do like about me?" Of course, there is great danger in all of this. If children are getting bombarded with pressure out in the world, the least thing they need is to question whether they even have a friend at home or even if they are really loved.

In what ways so you show your children physical affection?


Anonymous said...

I still hug and kiss my great big grown up kids!! But often I forget to say I LOVE YOU! I've been trying to say it daily or when I see them!!!!It's hard though...I don't know why except that maybe I'm too emotional and I know they don't want to see Mother teary eyed. But I love them so much it makes me cry. I've noticed the ones who need love the most ask for a hug and to be told they are loved most often. Children are always precious to their mothers even when they are grown.

Gwen said...

Children also need to take time to visit parents and show love and concern. Often parents feel visits from grown children are rushed or just token visits to say I visited!!!