While five-year-old Ryan’s mom hugged him he blurted out, “Hugs are for babies, mom.” Meanwhile, Ryan continued to let her hug him. As a child becomes increasingly mature and independent, the need to separate from parents begins. Meanwhile, the need for connection still remains. For most children (and adults) hugs can signal a sense of security, ease emotional pain, reduce anxiety, and generate hope. In short, children need hugs daily! And while we’re here… so do adults!
Children need hugs daily because they communicate a powerful, unspoken message:
Hugging (a caring touch, or a pat on the shoulder) is one of the most powerful ways to communicate empathy, friendship, approval, affirmation, and love to a child. A simple hug can say things like:
- “I’m here for you.”
- “You can rely on me.”
- “I’ll come when you call.”
- “I want to understand you.”
The unspoken message hugs carry tells your child that he belongs and most importantly, that he matters deeply to you! A gentle hug can say “I love you” much better than words.
That’s just part of the reason why children need hugs daily. More importantly, hugs help you read a child more accurately. Here is what I mean: hugs help keep you emotionally plugged in, current, and up-to-date with your child. They help increase your awareness of what’s going on just below the surface of his behavior. Hugging can help you tune into his deepest emotional needs. For example, his body language during a loving hug can give you deeper clues into what’s really going on when he’s not talking. If he seems stiff, he could be pre-occupied or upset with something. If he seems relaxed, he may be enjoying the closeness and security that a hug provides. Hugging is just one of the many ways to get attuned to your child, something I talk about in my parenting seminars.
A Point to Ponder
With all of the pressures that today’s child faces, hugs are vital to his emotional and physical development, far too vital to be left to chance. So, go ahead and hug your child in a way that helps him relax and feel comforted. Hug him in a way that lightens up a difficult situation. Hug him in a way that says, “You matter to me regardless of the situation!”