Physical contact is more important than you may think - especially for our children.
We live in a world of stranger danger and an overwhelming desire to keep our children safe. In light of the horrendous incidents our press have slathered over like hungry dogs, perhaps this is understandable, but I worry that we might be breeding a culture that has fear as its driving force.
Even 15 years ago when I was working in children’s television and filming youngsters dancing in a park throughout a particularly hot spell, we were instructed by the powers that be, that if the children needed sun cream, we were not to apply it directly, but to spray it onto their skin and ask them to rub it in themselves. Some of the children were as young as 4 or 5, so the efficacy of this was a little hit and miss.
A few years later, whilst working as a freelance educational practitioner I found myself in a stand-up row with a child protection instructor when she told me that, even as a movement specialist, if I found it necessary to make bodily contact with the children, I should not be allowed to teach them.
Of course I understand where this comes from and I totally agree that we must take all precautions to keep our children safe, however I am concerned about the level of anxiety that we may be instilling in them.
The renowned theatre company Fevered Sleep recently toured a show entitled 'Men & Girls Dance', celebrating the rights of adults and children to be together and to dance together, the very fact that this sounds initially disconcerting betrays the climate in which we are now bringing up our children. Good for them I say for addressing this issue and trying to make some headway in de-demonising men and their relationships with youngsters. Men are not all monsters after all, and our children need to know that.
Back in the day, I made a stand and said, yes, I was going to lay hands upon the children in my care, I was going to hug them if they cried, I was going to tickle them to make them laugh - because I didn’t want to see a generation growing up thinking that any kind of physical contact from an adult who wasn’t related to them was perverse.
I still work with young children, and I am still unable to turn away a kid who needs a hug. If this means I end up in court one day I will relish the opportunity to state my case, because I believe well-motivated human contact is one of the few things guaranteed to bring comfort in a difficult world.