7 Reasons Why Your Child Needs More Hugs

Do you often wonder if you are doing ‘enough’ for your child? When in doubt, give a hug! Here are 7 reasons to prove hugging goes a long way!

By Sanjay Edwin and Aparna Samuel Balasundaram

7 Reasons Why Your Child Needs More Hugs

Many of us may have grown up in families where physical demonstration of love - like hugs or kisses, is not a practice. Hugs are reserved for special occasions. And, perhaps, this is partly due to our cultural norms. However, science has proven the power of touch and has revealed the many benefits of hugging! Not that we needed science to tell us that hugging feels great, but now we have scientific proof too! So, here are 7 reasons for you to make a purposeful decision to hug your child and hold him tight! Believe me it’s not only good for your child, it’s great for you too!

1. Hugs enhance a sense of comfort and safety

Hugging your child sends her a silent, non-verbal, strong message – that he is loved and accepted unconditionally. Your child should never feel he needs to ‘earn’ a hug for good behaviour or accomplishments. Hugs should always be given freely, so your child knows he is loved and valued for just the way he is!

As Dr. Uday, a theologian and father of two young daughters aptly shares, "Children are a heritage from God, and therefore need to be treated as an invaluable part of our identity as parents, teachers, and society. Hugging is a natural way to demonstrate your love and respect for your child. It affirms the child in tangible ways that go beyond words or rational intellect."

2. Hugs boost self-esteem

Hugging your child from the time she is born lays a strong emotional foundation for the child. It helps her develop a healthy sense of self-esteem. The child will have the confidence to take risks, stretch her capabilities and try new things.

3. Hugs repair relationships

There will always be moments of conflict and hurt in your relationship with your child. During such moments, it is a good idea to make the effort to repair your relationship with your child and rebuild the connection. Saying sorry with a hug sends a powerful and clear message to your child that you still love him and want to make amends. It deepens the emotional bonds.

Kelvin A. Ramirez, PhD, Assistant Professor, Division of Expressive Therapies at Lesley University, shares this valuable insight . “My personal experiences of raising my son has provided the most compelling evidence into the power of hugs in fostering secure attachment. Our lives have not been free of turmoil or pain but the one consistent element throughout the ebbs and flows of life has been the bond that we have forged which has been supported largely by the physical manifestation of my love through the hugs I give my son.”

4. Hugs reduce anger and outbursts

When you sense your child is heading towards an emotional outburst and meltdown, reach out and hug her! This sets a positive tone to the discipline process. Once your child feels a little more relaxed and settled, you can have a conversation on what went wrong and how he can regulate his anger the next time.

5. Hugs help brain growth

Your hugs reassure your child of your unconditional love and support. According to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in the United States, children who are supported and nurtured early in life, have a larger hippocampus, the region of the brain that is responsible for memory, learning and emotional regulation.

6. Hugs boost physical immunity

When you hug your child, you are also building her immunity! Several studies show that oxytocin, the stress busting hormone, is released because of hugging. This, in turn, releases many growth hormones which impact the physical growth and health of a young child. Based on these principles, in many neonatal care units, parents are encouraged to hold and touch their premature babies. This ‘kangaroo care’ practice has been shown to improve vital signs and help with weight gain.

7. Hugs make us happier and resilient

“A hug is like an immunisation shot. It protects our children in building a strong emotional immunity when handling challenges, experiences and situations that might not be going their way wisely,” says Ms Hazel Siromoni, a renowned educationist and the Managing Director Maple Bear South Asia, a preschool chain. She adds, “the simple act of hugging your young one, is actually an investment which has returns that are longterm and life-long.” 

Remember, even if your child is all grown up and seems to resist your hugs, make sure you continue to nurture him through this power of touch. As long as it is not in front of all his friends, your child will secretly relish it. 

As Dr Uday says, “hugs are meaningfully meaningless – seriously, do we really need a reason?”

The right way to hug*

Heart–Heart: When you give your child a nice warm hug in which your heart is pressed against his, the hug stimulates the thymus gland which regulates and balances the production of white blood cells. This directly boosts your child’s immunity and yours, keeping you both healthy and illness-free.

1 hug = 6 secs minimum: It takes 6 seconds of hugging to release oxytocin hormone into your body. This happiness hormone can lower your blood pressure, reduce stress hormones and help you deal with anxiety. So, the next time you hug it out, make sure it is at least 6 seconds long!

8 in a day: There are so many opportunities to simply hug your child throughout the day. Start with a hug in the morning when your child wakes up, another hug before you send your child off to school, a hug when she walks in with her bag after school and yes, don't forget the good night hug and kiss. You are sure to find at least 4 more reasons to hug your child everyday! Source:

Parents speak

Parents share the magic of ‘hugging’

I was sitting around with my family chatting in our living room. My 3-year-old son wakes up from his nap and waddles into the room, still half asleep and groggy-eyed. He looks around at everyone till his eyes rest on me. He runs towards me, arms outstretched, climbs on to my lap and gives me a tight hug. It was a moment of pure bliss. The joy of that special moment resonates even today, 20 years later. A joyful parenting moment indeed! Anusha Ram, Chennai

Whenever my cousins, who were 3 and 4½ years old then, came to my house, the older brother would run into the room with the stuffed toys. He would grab a toy and run back towards his little brother who was still strolling in. The younger boy, who had a fear of stuffed toys, would take one look at the stuffed toy in his brother’s hand, scream and run out of the house crying. However, a few minutes later they would be playing together outside in the yard. Suddenly, the younger one runs towards his older brother shouting ‘Annnaaa’ and giving him a big hug. No more fear, only pure LOVE!R Lakshmi, Rajapalayam

My 2½-year-old daughter, Nadya, throws a tantrum or starts crying when I do not give in to her unreasonable demands. Sometimes, I would just lose my cool and yell at her. Then, out of guilt, I would go and give her a hug. Still screeching or crying, Nadya eventually would calm down and seek to play with me. I soon started to realise, how the hug helped us both to calm down. So, I decided to skip the drama and instead, hug her whenever I lose it. It’s been working like magic! Now, when she throws a tantrum, I breathe in and out and go straight to hug her. She takes her time and we both settle down in a while. I don’t know if this works the same way for everyone, but it does for us and I love it! Sana, Chennai

I started carrying my son in a baby carrier as soon he turned 4 months. It was like being in a constant hug mode with him. As soon as I came back from work, I would put him in the carrier and we would head out for a walk. This greatly helped both of us, especially when he was fussy or when I came home worked up from office. Now, he is 5 years – playful and independent. But, I will always cherish the closeness and warmth that we enjoyed.Arun Kumar, Coimbatore

*www.modernparentsmessykids.com -Do You Know The “Right” Way to Hug Your Child?

Sanjay Edwin and Aparna Balasundaram are co-founders of Life Skills Experts that enables parents and teachers to raise happy, confident and successful children. www.lifeskillsexperts.com

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