A happy and healthy child is one who has been showered with a lot of love. Such a child grows up into a physically, emotionally and mentally stronger adult. By using various words and actions you can make your child feel loved; however, did you know that just giving your child a hug can have a magical effect on him?
How hugging benefits a child
The first two years of a child’s life is a very important time as her brain undergoes several changes. During this phase, the child needs to feel loved, and learn to trust and form relationships. Hugging your infant or toddler shows her how much you love her, which helps in building a healthy parent–child bond.
Also, receiving a hug makes the brain release certain feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. These hormones and neurotransmitters when released in the brain help in elevating a child’s mood and keep her happy, thereby ensuring that she is able to deal with her emotions in a more balanced way.
8 Reasons to hug your child:
Hugging your child can provide her with some really wonderful benefits. A hug can help your child –
- Feel secure, safe and relaxed: Hugs are a simple but great way to make your child feel safe, secure and relaxed. Hugging creates an emotional bond between the two of you and shows your child that you accept her unconditionally.
- Deal with emotions in a better way: Children are constantly exploring and exposing themselves to new environments. As a result, they also need to learn to adjust with the changing surroundings. This may cause children to feel emotionally troubled, which can manifest in their behaviour. When your little one has a meltdown, or shows anger or frustration, try giving him a hug. You will be surprised at how quickly he becomes normal again.
- Release stress: When children feel stressed, their body releases cortisol and norepinephrine — the stress hormones. Prolonged stress increases the levels of these hormones, which adversely impacts the physical and mental well-being of children. Hugging helps your child relax and promotes the release of oxytocin (as already mentioned). This neurotransmitter promotes feelings of contentment and reduces stress and anxiety. So, by hugging your child, you can help her release the pent-up stress.
- Develop higher level of self-esteem: A child who feels loved and appreciated by the parent has a higher level of self-esteem compared to a child who isn’t. A hug from you can make your child feel appreciated and loved, thereby boosting his self-esteem and increasing his motivation levels.
- Learn empathy: By hugging your child, you convey the fact that you understand her and there exists an intimate connection between the two of you. This helps her learn how to empathise, which is the key to forming healthy relationships.
- Become more healthy: In her book, ‘Max your Mind: The Owner’s Guide for a Strong Brain’, Sandra Sunquist Stanton says, “Gentle pressure on the sternum stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keeps you healthy and disease free.” It has also been found that babies need a lot of physical hugging and soft touches for sensory stimulation, which leads to healthy brain development.
- Feel more happy: When children are hugged, they feel happy. This is because of the release of a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Higher levels of serotonin results in a pleasurable experience and helps in keeping sad and painful feelings away.
- Bond better with you: When parents hug their children during distress, it establishes a close bond between the parent and the child. As a result, the child learns to trust his parents and understand that he can connect with them whenever he needs them. Children who trust their parents grow up into better individuals.
You don’t necessarily need an occasion to hug your child. But, here are some everyday occasions when you ‘must’ hug your little one:
- When your child wakes up in the morning
- Before she boards her school van to go to school
- When she comes back from school
- When she helps you with something
- When she feels happy and excited
- When she feels upset about something
- When she finishes her meals properly
- Before she goes to sleep
So, whenever you feel like hugging your child, open your arms with an inviting smile on your face and hold him close to your heart and cherish the bond.
To quote Virginia Satir, a famous American author and therapist, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
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