12 months ago · lizzie · 31 comments
Regardless of how old you are, every individual desires (and benefits immensely from) having consistent support and unconditional love from parents. Whilst the role of a good parent is to guide, support and nurture each child into being a confident, strong, independent and motivated adult, one never loses the desire to be nurtured and to feel as though there is a bond and guide there when needed.
Over the years I have heard parents say they believe their children are too old for hugs, or that once a child reaches a certain age they no longer need parental support. However, this could not be further from the truth. Affection is a basic human and animal need. This need was shown experimentally in the 1960s via the Harlow psychological studies into the effects of love and deprivation on development. In these (often cruel) experiments, Harlow found that when young rhesus monkeys were provided with a choice of a ‘dummy’ mother made of wire (who provided food) and a ‘dummy’ warm/cuddly mother who provided warmth (& thus emulated the feelings of being with their real mother), they chose the warm mother more often. Hence these studies showed the monkeys would choose feelings of love and affection over the basic need – to eat.
Studies like these altered the way many babies were treated in hospitals. They also helped to shape new adoption policies (e.g. trying to pair parents with babies as young as possible to enhance this bond) and the deinstitutionalisation of orphans and the mentally impaired. Nowadays babies are held by mothers immediately after birth and rarely taken into the nursery, unless necessary. Thus, these basic human needs are well recognised (but sometimes forgotten) today.
As a parent of a child, or an animal, you can see the influence affection and consistent love has on those you care for. If you neglect an animal, for instance, it will most likely cause emotional harm to the animal. I can remember in high school a friend’s brother kept his dog in a large cage at the back of their house, while he trained it to become a ferocious guard dog. Apparently, the dog was nice to the brother. However, strangers were never allowed near the dog, for fear it would attack. Thus, keeping this animal caged significantly impaired the dogs natural instincts; to be loving, affectionate, playful and in particular to feel safe in the presence of strangers.
Whilst as an adult it is important to be your own person and live an independent life, it is always nice to know there are others you can rely on when you need it most. These people do not have to be your parents. They can be close friends, a partner, a mentor, or other family members. The key to this special relationship is feeling secure. A close friend that thinks of your needs, is supportive, loving and affectionate, can provide the same needs of the supportive, loving and affectionate parent. These relationships are very important and deserve your time and dedication to ensure they remain healthy and ongoing throughout your lifetime.
The message here is that if you are a parent, don’t assume your role is no longer as important once your children ‘grow up’. It is just as important, only different. The desire for unconditional and consistent love, support and affection is innate and should not be provided based on age. If you are a carer of an animal, make sure you take time to treat it with regular, unconditional love and affection – not just when you’re in the mood. Animals are sensitive and intelligent creatures and will also give you the same love and affection in return. Regardless of whether, or not you have children or animals in your life, take the time to be affectionate, loving and supporting to those you care about most and ask for this in return when you feel it is lacking.
Finally, think about who you are asking this of and assess whether or not they are capable of providing you with your basic needs. If not, you may need to re-think where you are placing your energy and desires. If a parent, friend or partner is unable to provide you with these basic needs, it doesn’t mean you have to stop loving them, but rather that you need to put your energy into seeking it from those most willing and capable to provide it to you consistently.
Never forget that everyone needs and deserves affection, love and support – especially YOU!
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