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The Power Of Hugs On Kids Physical, Mental and Emotional Well-Being

emotional management intentional parenting parenting tips Jan 21, 2022
The Power Of Hugs On Kids Mental Well-Being

When was the last time you got or gave a big bear hug, and you were really present for it?  Hugs make us feel good.  When someone hugs us it’s comforting, and we give hugs as a way to comfort others.  We usually don’t give much thought to it, but there is so much research on the impact of hugs on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  Hugs are very powerful from a parenting perspective!

Because January 22nd is National Hug Day, I wanted to fill you in on the amazing power of hugs!  Here is a list of how hugs help your kids: 

  • Hugs make us FEEL good! 

When you hug your child, it causes their body to release oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine.  Oxytocin is often called the “love hormone” that makes us feel warm all over, and serotonin and dopamine are “feel-good hormones”.  These hormones can fuel a number of positive emotions including happiness, more focus, satisfaction, calmness, and a decrease in depression. Hugs send the message to our kids that they are loved and accepted. 

  • Hugs lower stress. 

Studies have shown that hugs combat cortisol, the hormone associated with stress.  When your child is upset, they have cortisol running throughout their body.  It can take up to 20 minutes for that chemical reaction to dissipate naturally.  Hugs help lower cortisol and counteract that physical response in their body.   

  • Hugs build immunity. 

Stress and depression both contribute to weakening immune systems. Hugs decrease stress and depression while increasing serotonin levels – which have been linked to stronger immunity. Hugs can help you raise healthier kids! 

  • Hugs can help stop meltdowns and tantrums. 

In most cases, when your child is experiencing a meltdown or tantrum they have lost control of their emotions and reactions.  They are not actively choosing to act that way, they just can’t help themselves.  When you hug a child in the middle of a meltdown, you are helping them learn to self-regulate because your hug causes their own body to release oxytocin and lower cortisol levels.  The best part - you can give a hug without giving in to the demand. 

  • Hugs can turn around a bad mood and foster positive feelings. 

Oxytocin from a hug helps dissolve short-term memories and builds trust.  Studies have shown that not only are people that get hugs less likely to experience a bad mood after a disagreement, but they are also more likely to stay positive if they have received one or more hugs that day.  A hug can help lower your child’s distress and help them rebound faster following a time of upset.   

  • Hugging helps develop empathy skills. 

Not all children are born to naturally empathize.  Most need to learn how to take other people’s feelings into consideration and give comfort to others.  Hugging them helps them learn what it’s like to be comforted, so they know how to comfort someone else. 

  • Hugs are like boomerangs! 

The best part about hugs is that you get the hug and benefits right back!  When you hug someone and they hug you back, you also decrease your cortisol and increase your oxytocin levels with all of the ensuing benefits.

How many hugs a day should you give?  According to pioneering family therapist Virginia Satir, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth.”  For an infant that you’re holding often, that’s totally doable.  As children get older and things get busier, we have to be more intentional about giving hugs.

I invite you to just ask how you can squeeze a couple more in a day — first thing in the morning, before school drop-off, after school pick up, when they get off the bus, as congratulations for an achievement, or before bed?   I’ve been known to just show up in my teen’s room just to give them a hug and leave.  Where are there opportunities to add more hugs to your child’s day?

If you have found this article helpful, consider joining my Mindful Parent Circle where I will be sharing 20 tips over 20 days starting on January 22nd.   Make 2022 the year that parenting gets easier and you improve your relationship with your kids!  Join here.

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