Touch – The "Weather Report" Game
Touch is vital to life. We need four hugs a day to survive, eight for maintenance, and twelve in order to grow (Virginia Satir). Children need caresses and cuddles as much as they need food and water. Hugs can provide comfort in tough times and add joy to the good times. And here’s the best thing: When you give one away, you get it right back!
What we learned about touch from our parents probably affects us to this day. If our parents were affectionate then we learned healthy patterns of touch. If they didn’t touch us (neglect), we learned either to crave physical contact or to close ourselves off to it. If their touch was painful and punishing (physical abuse), we probably learned to fear and avoid touch, and/or to punish and abuse others. If their touch was inappropriate (sexual abuse), they inflicted deep wounds that must be healed-and never repeated. What our mothers, fathers, and other caretakers did to us became the blueprint for how we interact with others.
Touch can be a sweet gift of love and pleasure, or it can be a cruel and damaging violation. Without realizing it and without intending it, parents can cause touch disorders in their kids.
My maternal grandmother died while delivering her fourth baby when my mother was only five. Not only did my mother grow up during hard times in Germany, she always missed the affection and love of her own mother. Unfortunately, the pattern continued into my generation.
There was not only a lack of warmth in my family, but there was also harsh punishment that struck terror in my heart. I hated the way my parents handled punishment and swore that I would never do the same things to my children. Later, when I became a mother, I searched for and found better ways to deal with my children’s inappropriate behavior.
For better or worse, we carry the remnants of family blueprints throughout our lives. The patterns tend to repeat themselves from one generation to the next-if we let them.
Here is the good news: Once we realize what we are doing and why we are doing it, we can choose to make different choices. The decision, “I’ll never do that to my kids…,” can keep us from repeating damaging patterns. As we try different approaches, we can move into love-based-instead of fear-based-interactions. Instead of wounding our children, we can heal ourselves.
Affection can enhance connection, reduce stress, and even decrease problematic behaviors. One mother, for example, was upset about clashes with her nine-year-old daughter. In an attempt to reduce the tension between them, she made a concerted effort to do more touching. Over the next several months she patted her daughter on the shoulders and back, hugged her more often, and held her hand on walks. “As I increased the amount of physical contact,” she told me, “her acting out and resentment decreased.”
In New Zealand, several nurses worked with parents who were at risk of abusing their children because they had been abused themselves. Every week they gathered for a cup of tea, a lecture on child-rearing, and an exercise called “WEATHER REPORT.” It’s fun. Find a body and try it. There’s only one rule: The person receiving the attention is in charge of the experience and should give feedback. (“Stop that.” “More.” “Harder.” “Softer.”)
o Snowflakes-Tap your fingertips lightly on the other person’s head, shoulders, and back.
o Raindrops-Tap your fingertips simultaneously and harder than you did before. (Remind the receiver to speak up if it doesn’t feel good.)
o Hailstones-Same as raindrops, but with greater intensity. (Remember you are doing this to “inflict” pleasure, not pain.)
o Thunderclaps-With cupped palms, clap your hands across the person’s back and shoulders. It makes a good noise. Do not slap.
o Lightning Bolts-The outside part of your hand moves back and forth across the shoulder muscles. Stay away from the bones.
o Eye of the Tornado-Circle your thumbs across the person’s shoulders and down either side of the spine.
o Tidal Wave-Slide your hands in long strokes up and down their arms and across the back.
o Calm After the Storm-Rest your hands on their shoulders and breathe deeply. Slowly lift your hands about one-half inch and pause.
o Turnabout is fair play so that you can both have the experience. Then talk about it.
This is a sweet bedtime ritual for youngsters-good for connecting, relaxing, and dissolving the tensions of the day. Your kids will ask for it by name.