We’ve been telling parents to Touch Talk Read Play (TTRP) with their kids for years, and the message is catching on. Parents and their children are enjoying growth together by interacting in these loving, life-shaping ways. For the next few months, Memphis Parent and The Urban Child Institute will break TTRP down and examine the benefits of each loving act.
“It’s been documented that children who are isolated and not touched tend to be more rebellious and don’t know how to nurture,” says Rick Owings, a masseuse with Body Mechanix. With 22 years of experience in the field of massage, Owings has recently begun practicing pediatric massage, mostly with autistic patients.
Citing decades of research on the benefits of touch, he agrees that loving, daily contact between children and their caregivers is crucial to healthy development. Though the converse is also true.
“When a child is hit regularly by parents who also tell them they love them, they begin to think that’s what love is,” he says. “This can stick with them for life.”
Owings told a story of a woman whose therapist recommended massage as a way to deal with issues stemming from abuse she suffered as a child, at the hands of an adult male relative. “The therapist suggested she visit a male masseuse to experience positive touch between two people,” he said. “At the end of our session, she was a little emotional, but in a positive way. I could tell (the experience) had been important to her.”
In the first year of life, baby’s brain grows at a remarkable pace. By the time your child is 3, his brain will reach 80 percent of its adult size. That’s why the time from birth to age 3 is so important. Early brain development is largely shaped by your baby’s environment, as well as his health and wellness. Healthy, safe, and regular contact with caregivers creates a caring environment for the right kind of growth.
“When my daughter was nine days old, I was in a motorcycle wreck,” said Owings. “I stayed home with her for three months we interacted constantly, touching, playing, being with each other. She’s a teacher now, and though she can’t remember (that period), she says she’s sure this closeness early between us was crucial to her path through life. Kids interact with people in the way their parents interacted with them.”
It’s easy and fun to find ways to be physically close with our kids when we’re together. This can create an emotional tie that will enable your child to build other healthy relationships as well.