I recently saw a commercial for the saddest toy I think I have ever seen. Not because it is cheaply made like some toys. Not because it comes with 5 million twist ties like the Polly Pockets dolls my daughter loved when she was younger. It is sad because the selling point of the toy is that it gives your child as many hugs as he or she wants!
I don’t think this toy was created with the orphan or abused child in mind. It is clearly being marketed to middle and upper middle class children (the price alone would keep it out of the hands of less fortunate children). What I would be afraid to ask is what exactly the creators were thinking when they came up with the idea.
What I fear, is what I see repeated day after day by parents all around me. Parents are ignoring their children in favor of work, hobbies or just busyness. Our children are starving for our focused love and affection. Forget the eight or more meaningful, loving touches every child needs each day to be healthy. Many children are lucky if they get one rushed hug or quick kiss all day.
Little ones may get more because they are more likely to give their hugs away without asking for permission. How many meaningful touches do our older child get each day? Our tweens? Our teens? My guess is that in the average home, after the age of three or four, many children don’t even receive one positive, loving touch a day.
They may not be able to verbalize their need, but deep down at the gut level that lack of positive physical attention is leaving a gaping hole in our children where the love should be. Studies show that much of the sexual acting out of children and teens is because they are desperately seeking the physical love and affection they actually needed from their parents.
Now, some of you may be saying your child doesn’t want hugs or is suddenly “prickly”. When they are acting and feeling unloveable, our children need tangible, physical proof of our affection more than ever. You may have to temporarily substitute a kiss on the top of the head or a slight rub on the back for hugs, but find some way to communicate to your child with touch, that he is loved and that she is valued.
If you decide to buy Elmo, buy him because your child thinks Elmo is funny. Don’t buy him to give your child the hugs your child needs from you. As cute and furry as Elmo is, he is a poor substitute for the loving hugs of Mom and Dad.