Last evening, my 3-year old “hid” from us by wrapping herself in a tablecloth. I knew the game. I’ve played it with her and each of her older siblings more times than I could count. And the reaction is always the same: sparking eyes…shrieks of delight…a glowing face…as I seek her, find her, sweep her up in my arms. She needs that.
In some ways, it’s a no brainer: children require much more than physical things like food, medicine, and shelter to truly thrive. But at times throughout history – especially in situations of immense, tangled need – efforts to care for children have understandably focused only on the physical.
Today, an ever-growing body of research underscores what both Scripture and common sense have always affirmed: love, nurture and belonging are truly essential to human life. A person is not just material, but – as Jesus described – our whole being is composed of heart, mind, soul and strength. We were made for relationships, with both God and others. Without these we shrivel…even when our physical needs are adequately met. We cannot live by bread alone.
It’s the “intangibles” that cultivate health, strength and capacity deep within. Reflecting facial expressions back to a baby. Comforting a toddler after a hard fall. Firm but tender discipline. Frequent words of affirmation and praise. These things literally “hard-wire” a human brain for successful relationships and choices throughout life. With them, we can thrive – even amidst great difficulties. Without them, we will inevitable struggle – even surrounded by all the physical things we could dream of.
A 4-minute video from the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative helps explain this reality in simple terms, “How Brains are Built: The Core Story of Brain Development”: