Physical touch is an important way to connect with the people in our lives, teenagers included. It is especially important for people whose primary love language is to give or receive love through touch.
Unfortunately there are a multitude of factors preventing adults from connecting with middle school boys through physical touch. Here are a few:
- Boys can be falsely trained that showing physical affection is a “girly” thing, so they think physical touch is weird.
- Middle school boys are often uncomfortable with their changing bodies.
- The adult males in a boy’s life, whom boys will take their cues from, often have their own issues and confusion about appropriate physical touch.
- A small handful of unhealthy adults have committed inappropriate physical acts with middle school boys, so society now looks skeptically and cautiously at adults who work with teenagers. I don’t blame society for taking this approach but it can make youth workers paranoid about engaging in any kind of physical touch with students.
Despite those factors, it is important that middle school boys learn how to give and receive love through appropriate touch. Here are some easy, low-risk ways to connect with middle school boys through physical touch:
- The classic fist pound: Just make sure they don’t leave you hanging.
- The single-handed high five: You can’t go wrong with this one.
- The double handed high five: This one is extra cool for when you’re extra excited.
- The gentlemanly handshake: I think a firm handshake makes a boy feel important and mature.
- The “bro hug”: A mixture between a handshake and a hug. You start with a handshake, then hug with the other hand, and finish with a few solid pats on the back.
Others may disagree, but I think adults can also connect with middle school boys through hugs. Adults must take extra caution here, but I strongly believe it is important for boys to know it’s acceptable for guys to hug. Here are a few tips for hugging. Some may find it humorous or unnecessary to have specific, written instructions on how to hug, but I had to be taught a lot of following rules as an adult:
- Only attempt hugs with guys you already know.
- Before starting the hug, verbally ask for his permission. Say, “Can I hug you?” If he says no, don’t make him feel bad or try to convince him otherwise.
- Put your arms out wide, right arm slightly higher than the left.
- Tilt your head to the left.
- Make the embrace quick and firm.
- Add a few pats on the back if you want.
- Make a clean break.
If you’re not comfortable with hugging or if it wouldn’t be appropriate in your context, simply stick with a fist pound, high five, handshake, or bro hug. Whatever you do, don’t forget that even though middle school boys don’t hug their buddies or play with each other’s hair like girls do, they have a God-given need to receive love through multiple channels, including physical touch.