The next time your little one goes in for a big bear hug, know that it’s doing more than just making you feel great. Hugging is proven to be a critical factor in psychological development for toddlers – and it provides a major boost to their self-esteem levels for life. A simple embrace can really impact our child’s attitude and help them to be a healthier, more positive person. It’s also pretty great for us!
Here’s a few reasons why – and how to be a happy hugger.
By Cristina Esteve
Hugs help us to stress less
As parents, we’re always looking for ways to be calm, cool and collected. Hugging happens to be one of them! Every time we experience one of our little one’s great big hugs, our brain produces a hormone known as oxytocin, which triggers the brain to relax. Hugging is one of the quickest ways to relieve tension and stress, and to boost this healthy hormone for both you and your toddler.
Hugs help build healthy self-esteem
Physical touch is one of the first things babies and toddlers recognize as they learn to communicate. Hugging your little one early in life is linked to higher self-esteem, according to the US National Library of Medicine, as hugging reinforces feelings of safety, love and security. It radiates both acceptance for who they are and the value you place on the relationship, which lets your child see themselves in a more positive light. The positive and powerful effects of hugging also encourage your toddler to cultivate healthy relationships as they grow up.
Hugs are limitless
Virginia Satir, the late American author and family psychotherapist once said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
Although we love Virgina’s recommendation, the number of hugs you dole out is completely dependent on what’s comfortable for your family. A rule of thumb is, once in the morning, before you leave, when you come home, and before bed. But above all, do what feels right! Making sure your little one feels loved is the only goal.
Hugs highlight special times (just remember tots need space, too!)
Although you may be a parent who wants to hug and kiss your little one all day long, remember they are little people and they may not always feel like it. At times, your toddler may feel overwhelmed by cuddles, especially when they are trying to establish their independence.
When your tot is running around, he may not be in mood for big bear hugs. He’s most likely focused on the task at hand (A.K.A., play!) A hug and kiss before bed is better received and appreciated than a hugging tug-of-war on the playground. Creating a routine where you can both spend 10-15 minutes together before bedtime, maybe reading a book like Jez Alborough’s classic board book Hug is a lovely way to end the day for both of you.
We don’t really notice how much a simple hug can impact our family dynamic. But this little gesture does so much for people, big and small. Making hugs a priority lets your little one know loud and clear they’re on your mind – and a hug back lets you know you’re on theirs.