Let’s talk about SEX… and PARENTing
How do you feel when the words ‘sex’, ‘child’, and/or ‘parent’ are combined in a thought or sentence? Uncomfortable? Shameful? Somehow in our culture, sexual awareness has been psychologically extracted from the rest of our existence and, when we attempt to re-assimilate it to its normal and exalted place within our lives, the voices- in our own heads and from the mouths of those around us- wield words of guilt and shame. When did ‘sex’ come to mean solely the act of intercourse? And, though childhood sexual abuse continues to be a concern for many parents, is it in our children’s best interest to ignore or manipulate their basal understanding of what feels good and right for their bodies? We can help our children understand ‘good touch’ deeply in the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of their being easily just by doing what comes naturally to humans. This is the root of a positive self-concept, meaningful relationships, and sexual gratification.
Guess what? From the time our children are born, we are sending them strong and powerful messages about their sexuality and sense of well-being, not just on a conscious level but in chemical form. Our physical interactions in the form of touch go straight to the pleasure center of their brains in the form of oxytocin- a hormone that yields a sense of calm, safety, and relaxation. A post at psychworld.com entitled Orgasm and Attachment: the Power of Touch alludes to the direct positive correlation between healthy, sustained physical connection between parents and children and the child’s subsequent psychological, sexual, and interpersonal development.
Attached parents foster self-confident children and adults
‘Attachment parenting’ is a label ascribed to parents who attend to their infants’ physical needs immediately and lovingly. Most APers breastfeed, hold their babies in slings or other close carriers, co-sleep, and thereby become quickly in tune with their baby’s rhythms and messages. The AP philosophy and research indicate that this close connection through meeting the physical needs of the baby supports self-confidence, growth, and learning by limiting or entirely alleviating psychological and physical stressors. Not to mention that it’s what feels just right in the hearts of parents! Check out What AP is: 7 Baby Bs at Ask Dr. Sears to find out more about attachment parenting.
But let’s take this one step further. It goes without saying, given the information about oxytocin release, that those who hold, massage, and lovingly touch their babies and children are actually creating a calm, relaxed individual with a stronger sense of security on a physical level that is associated with close, loving relationships. We are creating an addiction for our children. A what? Yes, because oxytocin is an addictive chemical, we are supporting our children’s addiction to feeling good. Every decision we make in our lives should come from this pure, connected place of satisfaction and contentment.
Sexual connection and empowerment
Where do the differences in levels of touch, sexual desire, and interpersonal connection in adults stem from? Among other things, we cannot discount the importance that physical touch between the parent and child has on the development of confident, loving adults who are receptive and desirous of physical connection with others. It would stand to reason that a lack of appropriate or loving physical touch in the child could manifest in the inability to connect in a fulfilling way in relationships and sexual dysfunctions such as diminished sexual response, avoidance, or even addiction as adults. Three Kinds of Touch authors Joyce and Barry Vissell categorize different kinds of touch which may help you to feel more comfortable with all of this child, parent, sex, and touching talk. Their words sum it up well: “We need to emphasize that before there can be healthy adult touch, there needs to be enough healthy expression of parent and child touch.”
Honoring the power of touch
So studies show that attentive, loving touch is pivotal from a psychological and physiological development standpoint in babies and children. What about us adults? We can start now. By honoring The Power of Touch and the realization that it is highly effective in reducing stress, a source of well-deserved pleasure, and a means to share loving connection, we can understand and justify the introduction of, or increase in, loving touch with our children, partners, and casual loving touch with friends. Yes, we benefit each other and forge and foster deeper, more meaningful relationships! Heck, loosen up with a massage.