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The Impact of Hand Holding on a Child's Behavior

by Amber Keefer, studioD

As with adults, plenty of aspects in life are bothersome to kids. It is not easy dealing with fear, anxiety, frustration and emotional pain, so as with adults, children sometimes need help dealing with their emotions. HealthyChildren.org states that when parents take steps toward enabling a child to feel physically safe and emotionally secure, this helps parents strengthen the connection they have with their children. Kids feel safe and are not afraid to reach out when they need to.

Strengthens the Connection

Holding your child’s hand can help give her a sense of security and support. Even a simple touch of holding hands contributes to making a child feel loved and emotionally connected to you. In an article first published in “American Baby” Magazine, best-selling author and child psychiatrist Dr. Edward Hallowell discusses the findings of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which suggest that it is not enough for a parent to love a child, a parent needs to make a child feel loved.

Calms a Child’s Stress

Holding your child’s hand can have a calming effect on your child, especially when he feels anxious, angry or agitated. Once you recognize these stressors in your child, giving him a gentle touch will calm him. Giving your child a hug is another way to lower his stress. In an article for WebMD, Dr. Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, points out that the pressure of a hug can produce a calming effect because the hug stimulates nerve endings under the child’s skin, which slows the release of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can cause health problems if too much cortisol releases into the bloodstream.

Shows You Understand

When your child is going through a difficult time, acknowledge her feelings and let her know you love her no matter what. Outward signs of affection like hugging, hand holding and cuddling are ways you can show your child that you understand. Empathizing with how she feels, and identifying with her pain can help build a stronger bond between you. KidsPeace, a program that serves the behavioral and mental health needs of children, points out that a child needs to know that her parents love her -- in times of calm and in times of crisis. Communicating that love is the key to positive parenting.

Keeps a Child Safe

Holding your child’s hand can be a form of discipline that keeps her safe. For example, when you hold your child’s hand when you cross the street or parking lot, you are protecting her from danger. Even when you are not crossing the street, holding her hand near traffic keeps her from wandering or darting into a busy street. The AskDr.Sears website states that when you set limits such as holding hands while crossing the street, you are not restricting your child but are protecting her from harm.

About the Author

Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.

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