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On Finding Happiness – Affection

Affection. We all long for it. We tend to receive so much of it when we are young infants. Our parents lather us up with love, warmth and lots of attention as we cry and reach out for more. Affection and touch develops us. Strengthens us. And characterizes the very fabric of who we are and who we become.

As we grow and develop into young childhood and middle childhood our parents might not be as available as they used to be when we were little infants because of time constraints and the competing demands of adulthood. So we branch out and reach out for more from our peers, developing new relationships in school and after school when activities are happening.

But the peer relationships of young childhood and middle childhood are not enough to satiate our needs for affection and intimacy. So again, we seek it elsewhere as we continue to age. Before long it’s time for kids to enter high school and take on entirely new challenges and entirely new relationships. Attraction between males and females continue to increase as pre-teens and teenagers enter of the years of puberty and sexual development. Young kids in high school become easily distracted by their sexual urges and the need and desire to be close with one another.

Even younger kids long to be in each other’s arms in a warm and blissful embrace. It’s just human nature and we have a longing for such affections.

But what is affection at these younger ages? Is it intimacy? Is it touching? Is it to feel the warmth of each other’s skin pressed firmly together? Is it the physical act of sex and all of the other intimate activities that accompany it?

These are many questions to consider when we are talking about affection. The important thing to remember is that younger kids will begin to look for such affections (sexual behavior) when there is a lack of emotional affection coming from a parent or set of parents depending on the marital situation and if the parents are together anymore. During the teenage years, children are still desperately seeking emotional affection from their parents in terms of genuine support and the undeniable need of validation – that what the child is doing is correct and worthy of the parent’s attention and approval.

Validation becomes the substitute for infant-like affections such as kissing, hugging, cuddling and gentle rubbing and caressing of the cheeks. We tend not to do these things to our kids when they become teenagers and so validation and encouraging words stand in replacement. In the absence of it, our children run into the arms of their peers, experimenting with sexual behaviors that can have very serious consequences including pregnancy, STD’s, and the start of very young families that are not ready to be families (because the teenager parents are not yet in the workforce earning steady streams of income).

It can become a very vicious cycle. And this very vicious cycle can be healed through the affection of validation. Validation is also preventative. It prevents our young teenagers from running into the arms of the opposite sex when they are in an emotional state of confusion and bewilderment. The affection of validation is also healing. It can undue emotional damage done through harsh criticisms and emotional unavailability. It’s not that the affection of validation is a cure-all but it can certainly remedy a lot of situations that may have unpleasant results.

The key to remember here is that we, as human beings, have a constant need for affection. When we are very young, helpless and defenseless we need constant feeding, changing, hugging, kissing, cuddling and touching. As we move into the middle school years our affections more revolve around peer relationships and fun activities. However, when we move into the adolescent years and puberty sets in, our needs for affection become more complex and we begin to reach out in sexual ways that can have severe and unwanted consequences if not careful through the practice of safe sex.

Recall that affection needs in the adolescent years are more a kin to validation and the seeking of parental approval and that the teenager is performing daily routines with efficaciousness. This reality tends to pervade into late adolescence, early adulthood and beyond. In our former years we continue to seek affection through validation in our work and who we are as human beings. Some people seek out charitable work and humanitarian efforts. We have a strong need and urge to perform in our daily routines, especially in our former years as we begin to reflect back on who we were and who we are becoming.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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