When a baby is born, it’s normal to want to cuddle it all the time.
This desire to cuddle changes as your baby grows into childhood.
Also in childhood you begin to see how affectionate your child really is.
Some children are very cuddly and some are much more independent.
Occasionally, the need for affection can cross a line, and you might have trouble giving your children as much affection as they want.
Do you have an overly touchy feely child?
How do you know when it’s normal and when it’s too much?
My child is overly touchy feely
Just like adults, some kids are more affectionate than others and some aren’t affectionate at all.
To a large extent, how touchy feely we are is a part of our personality.
Even among babies, you can sense those who like to be held more often and those who are content to be put down.
Your children will have their own ‘normal’ when it comes to how affectionate they are and how much they like to be touched.
But what if you suspect you have an overly touchy feely child?
Perhaps you sense he’s not happy, and trying to fill a void with touch. Maybe the level of touch he needs is even too much for you to handle.
Why is my child always touching me?
One BellyBelly fan spoke about her overly touchy feely child:
“He likes to be close up to you, smell everything; he licks, kisses and touches a lot … I know he’s being loving, but it causes fights with his sister and makes me so grumpy and irritable, not having personal space”.
If this sounds like what you’re experiencing, you probably have an overly touchy feely child.
But is this normal or can it be a sign of a something else?
At what age should you stop cuddling your child?
Nobody’s suggesting cuddling your child is wrong.
Affection between a parent and child starts at birth and is very normal.
It’s only a problem if it becomes a problem for you, for your child, or for others your child is interacting with.
If you think you have an overly touchy feely child, try answering these questions:
- Is it too much for you to handle?
- Is your child’s level of affection a problem for other people?
- Do you see this as a possible problem in the future?
- Do you sense your child is using affection as a ‘tool’?
Spend some time thinking about what might be at the bottom of this need for constant affection.
This will help you to understand what need is going unfulfilled.
Is being too affectionate bad?
Let’s look at some of the possible reasons you have an overly touchy feely child:
- Physical touch love language
- Quality time love language
- Sensory processing disorder
The love language theory was proposed by Gary Chapman.
He says there are 5 ways people give or receive love:
- Physical touch
- Quality time
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts.
While most of us feel loved when experiencing all of these things, some of them tend to make us feel more loved than others.
If your child’s primary love language is physical touch, he’s likely to feel most loved when he is being touched.
If physical touch is low on your list of love languages, this could feel uncomfortable or annoying to you.
Your child might also be very affectionate if his primary love language is quality time.
If this is the case, spending more one-on-one time with your child or setting aside time for specific daily rituals could make him feel safer.
They could be as simple as:
- Reading a story before bed
- Sitting with him at bath time
- Putting aside half an hour to chat about the day
- Playing a game every day
- Preparing dinner together.
You can take the love languages quiz, to find your child’s primary love language.
Sometimes, simply being very extroverted could be a reason for being an overly touchy feely child.
What does overly affectionate mean?
How do we know when touchy feely crosses a line and is a problem?
Midwife and early childhood educator, Heather Hack Sullivan, explains:
“Younger preschool-age children are still figuring out personal space.
“If your child doesn’t seem to be able to get their sensory needs met or cannot seem to understand how their actions are making someone else feel, you may want to contact an occupational therapist for evaluation and techniques to help”.
In other words, a school-aged child should know social cues well enough to behave appropriately.
If children don’t realise they’re being overly touchy feely with someone, it might be best to seek some professional advice from your healthcare provider or paediatrician.
What are good boundaries?
Being overly affectionate can be a sign of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
According to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing, some symptoms are:
- Being overly sensitive to stimulation
- Moving constantly
- Difficulty in completing tasks
- Easily distracted
- Becoming overwhelmed in busy environments
- Difficulty making friends
- Having trouble with reading
Make sure to check out the full list here.
A mother whose daughter was diagnosed with SPD says the symptoms she saw were:
“Picky eating, clothing issues, clapping hands over her ears, petrified of public bathrooms with unpredictable flushing toilets and loud hand dryers, running into things repeatedly for input, hanging upside down, can’t sit still in preschool, screaming fits”.
How do I set boundaries with my child?
If you suspect your child has SPD, it’s important you speak with a doctor.
Children should be evaluated by a professional if their behaviour is upsetting to themselves or others.
Until you can see a professional, some questions to ask are:
- What sensations are they seeking?
- Are they getting enough activity?
- Are they getting enough attention?
- Do they understand normal boundaries?
STAR Institute has some ideas for sensory activities you can try:
- Give children household chores
- Let them organise pots and pans
- Give them a rocking chair or bean bag
- Give them an air cushion to sit on
- Try a weighted blanket at bedtime.
A BellyBelly fan says:
“One thing suggested to me was to put a couple of rocks in DD’s school bag as she walked home, to calm her mood after a full day at school. The weight helps to calm her”.
How do you teach boundaries to an overly affectionate child?
As parents, we can use everything as an opportunity to teach.
This situation is no different.
If you have an overly touchy feely child, you can use the situation to teach him boundaries.
If he’s not aware he is making you uncomfortable, let him know you’ve had enough for now.
It could be as simple as pointing out how his sibling is feeling when she’s frustrated over a lack of personal space.
Maybe your child is just very affectionate and cuddles make him feel safe.
You know your children best, and you know whether they are simply affectionate or so touchy feely that it crosses a line.
If it’s simply a part of their personality, there’s a wealth of books to read on the subject.
If you think they might have a problem, reach out to their doctor about seeing a specialist.