HUG YOUR KIDS: THEY NEED IT AND SO DO YOU.

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I’m a hugger. I have four kids and I love to snuggle and be close to them, but I’ve realized in the past few months, I’ve been hugging less. So, I’m making a concentrated effort to HUG THEM MORE because it’s important.

I recently read this article from projectforgive.org: New Study: The More You Hug Your Kids, The Smarter They Get. Here are a few things I took to heart and the article’s quotes that inspired me.

hugging Mom and 3 year old boy

1. More hugs

“How many hugs do we and our children need each day? Research points to 4 hugs a day to survive, 8 for maintenance, and 12 a day for self-esteem and growth.”

I read this to my kids and told them I am setting a goal for them to each get 12 hugs a day. Now the three-year-old asks me periodically, “How many huggies have you had today?” It inspires us to embrace more often.

I think one of the reasons we’ve been hugging less is that our built in “hug times” aren’t happening. Normally, I hug my kids if they come snuggle in bed when they wake up . I hug them when they leave for school. I hug them when they come home. I hug them when I’m proud of something they brought home. I hug them when they’ve had a bad day. I hug them as they get ready to go to whatever sports game they are participating in (and I whisper for them to do their best and have fun). I hug them when the game is over.  I hug them if it went well or when it didn’t. I hug them if they step on a lego or bang their leg or run into a tree (yes, this happens for us). I hug them goodnight. 

Most of these hug times aren’t happening like usual and I’m missing out on the chance to snuggle in. I realized I wasn’t creating alternative hug times in our social-distancing life.

I’m working to do better. I try to hug them before they go outside to play. A lot of times I say, “Hey, I need a hug” at random times of day. It also helps to make a big deal out of it in the morning. I tell everyone I expect to hear about their 12 hugs at bed time and then make a concentrated effort to remind them they can also hug each other and their dad. 

I’d say we get our allotment maybe 1 or 2 days a week. It’s especially hard to get my 11-year-old all he needs. It’s just not as easy. He doesn’t come running for a hug every time he feels the smallest slight or owie like the little guys do.

2. Hug longer

“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.”

Long hugs seem to be especially important to my older kids (11 and 9). At first they might be a little reluctant, but I hold on. Almost every time this happens: They wrap their arms around me just because they know how much I want the hug. They are a little stiff. I hold them tight and long. They begin to pull away and I say, “please just a little longer.” They adjust their arms and hold on a little tighter. Then, they sigh. A big full body sigh of contentment and I know I’ve done my best work of the day.

three frames of young boy hugging mom

3. Hug to listen

“Hugs also help build open and authentic communication and allow for more vulnerability in relationships. When you hug someone, you are non-verbally telling them you’re invested in the relationship.”

I feel like now more than ever I need open communication with my kids. They aren’t getting all they need socially. I’m probably failing to support them exactly right though the struggle of social-distancing. I don’t have any books or articles with much real knowledge to help me navigate the times right now.

I need them to know I care…that I am invested in my relationship with them. I need them to know it and feel it.

One thing this time has taught me is that I really like my children. They are fun to be around. I love them more than 3 months ago. Maybe because I’ve had time to listen to them. I’ve had time to talk to them and hear more about what they care about. We haven’t been rushing from activity to activity. We’ve been spending time getting to know each other and I like hearing what they have to say.

Hugging mom and tween son

Of course, there are boundaries and you know your kid best and the need to respect their need to not touch. I have found knowing my kids and whether they truly don’t want a hug is an important part of listening and knowing them. I respect their wishes not to hug. 

The wonderful thing about hugging is that you can’t give one without getting one. I, too, need 12 hugs a day. Sometimes the hug isn’t for them, it’s for me. Right now I’m really glad I have four kids and a great husband. It makes getting my daily quota a bit easier.

Happy Hugging!

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Meghan Cooley
A committed member of the boymom club, Meghan has five active, adventurous, crazy sweet men in her life she often calls her “favorite boys”. Charles is 10, Oliver is 8, Bennett is 5, Simon is 3 and her husband, Luke is a fun, patient, loving father to all these crazy characters. For 18 years, Meghan worked in higher education at a private college in recruitment, marketing, and social media. Now, working from home, she balances four boys, a great husband, freelance writing and social media consulting. Meghan grew up in St. Charles, IL (a western Chicago suburb), attended Augustana College, and is a true Quad City transplant - she loves living in this area! She likes to read, sing, plan adventures, travel and just be with her favorite boys.

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