Yep, hugs matter. Especially now. All the cultural stress, masking, not masking, etc…has shifted a lot of us from getting hugs on a daily basis. And if you’re a hugging kind of person, you are probably experiencing a strong need to hug MORE.
And our kids need hugs more than ever. Depending upon their age, children have fewer skills developmentally to express any complicated feelings, let alone distinguish and articulate what they need. All the changes and uncertainty are deeply impacting mental health, especially our children that struggle to identify with what they may be feeling.
One thing you can be sure of though, children need hugs and the science backs it up.
The science behind hugging your child is vast. The benefits include emotional and physical resilience. Hugging also increases trust, reduces fear and impacts parent-child bonding. An often-hugged child equals a happier, healthier kid.
And now? Hugging is more crucial than originally thought. It makes your child smarter, too.
New research from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio has found that the more you hug your child during the developmental stages of life, the more their brain grows.
In the study, 125 babies, both premature and full-term, were looked at how well they responded to being physically touched. Researchers used a soft EEG net stretched over the babies’ heads to measure brain responses.
The results found that premature babies responded to affection less than babies who were not born prematurely. That makes sense.
But the study also showed that infants who experienced more affection by parents or hospital staff showed stronger brain response.
In essence, this finding tells us that something as simple as body contact or rocking your baby in your arms will make a big difference in how their brain develops.
And how many hugs do we and our children need each day? Research points to 4 hugs a day to survive, 8 hugs for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for self-esteem and growth.
The length of the hug matters, too. When we hug and embrace for 7 to 20 seconds, our bodies release a hormone called oxytocin, commonly called the “cuddle hormone.” Oxytocin is linked to lowering your blood pressure and reducing the stress hormone called norepinephrine.
Hugs elevate our serotonin levels, improving happiness. They also relax muscles and tension in the body by increasing circulation in soft tissues.
Hugs also help build open and authentic communication and allows for more vulnerability in relationships. When you hug someone, you are non-verbally tell them that you’re invested in the relationship.
And remember, if a child does not want to be hugged and says no, honor that boundary. Respecting a child’s body boundaries when they say no, fosters self-esteem, intimacy and increased emotional intelligence for choices they will make later in life. When a child verbalizes a no, that is a very good thing and needs to be honored.
We would all agree that kids need and deserve to be hugged and cuddled. A gentle, kind, loving touch makes a difference. It can make a problem or booboo go away in seconds. The fact that it can make your child smarter is an added bonus, right?
Bottom line: Affection is vital for the development of the brain. So, enjoy cuddling and hugging your child.