Have you ever noticed how kids run around freely for a period of time and then suddenly stop by to sit on their mom or dad’s lap . . . or lean on them . . . or “touch base” in some way? They may stop by for seconds or minutes, and then they are off again. For kids, this touching base is like emotional refueling. The momentary closeness actually balances a number of chemicals in their brains. In addition, if your kids are touching base with you, it’s a real compliment. Your child experiences you as a natural high.

Neuroscientist Candace Pert has been known to refer to each of us as the “finest drugstore available.” The natural hormones and neurochemicals produced in our bodies and brains can make us feel great and help us thrive. However, if people experience relational stress in childhood, they may lose access to those finest natural chemicals.

When you provide your child with lots of early experiences that offer love and calm, opioids and oxytocin will be dominant in his or her brain. If your child experiences these neurochemical brain states on a regular basis, your child will perceive the world with curiosity and awe-filled interest. Repeated experiences of positive human interaction also create resilience for the painful and stressful times in life that are part of being human.

Opioids and oxytocin are highly activated in the human brain only through warm human connections . . . such as the loving reassurance given to a child who is touching base. So, if we want children to grow up with the ability to feel secure, calm, and safe in the world, and if we want them to feel at ease with themselves and the people around them, we need to be sure they have the safe physical contact and comforting that activates these chemicals and is such an important part of their development.

More to consider: Chemicals to know . . .

Opioids are brain chemicals that both give us a general sense of well-being and relieve pain.

Oxytocin contributes to feelings of comfort and safety in children.

Cuddles, hugs, falling asleep in your arms, rituals that include affectionate touch, and holding your child on your lap trigger these powerful chemicals.