If we could, we would keep our children close to us forever (raise your hand if they still sleep in your room and they're 5 years old). And while at some point we need to let them go, there is one parenting task we should never ever get rid of: hugs.
It’s not just paglalambing — hugging has science-backed benefits. “Higher self-esteem, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behavior problems have been linked to warmth and affection between parent and child,” says a report from Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization in the U.S.
Ready to show some love? Here are tips on how you can incorporate more hugging into your everyday parenting:
1. Make cuddling a habit Make hugging a part of your family’s daily routine. Hug your child every day before she leaves for school, for example, or as you say goodnight to each other at bedtime. Practice this consistently and before you know it, your child will be holding his arms out as he expects mom’s warm embrace.
2. Use a hug to handle a tantrum (seriously) Hugging can be a loving tactic to disarm. Comfort through affectionate words or a warm embrace can diffuse a tense situation especially if a child is upset or frustrated.
“When offering a hug or verbal reassurance to calm your child, you are not automatically reinforcing their behavior. You are actually helping them calm down, so that they can hear you better,” Dr. Azine Graff, a clinical psychologist who specializes in parenting and anxiety, says in an article on Motherly.
Imagine your child is at a play date, but it’s getting late. You tell him it’s time to head home, and he starts to cry. A simple phrase like, “I understand how you're feeling. I would be sad about it, too” along with a hug is sometimes all your child needs to feel better.
3. Give a hug after disciplining your child Children need rules and limits to thrive and feel safe, says developmental pediatrician Dr. Victoria Ang-Nolasco. “Parents think that they are making the child happy by letting them do whatever they want, whenever they want, but the opposite is true,” she explains.
“[Children] intuitively know that they need an adult to be in charge, and they count on their parents to guide their behavior,” says pediatrician Dr. Marianne Neifert, in an article for Parenting. But, it can be difficult for a parent to see their child sad or upset after being reprimanded.
After disciplining your child, it’s all right to show warmth and affection, according to the the University of Rochester Medical Center. “Make sure your child knows it is the behavior you are not happy with, not your child.”
4. Show affection during playtime Moms who use more positive reinforcement during play had a stronger bond with their kids, a 2013 study from the University of Missouri-Columbia found. “Children whose parents spent too much time directing play showed 'more negative feelings' towards their mothers,” reported Deseret News.
“We know that children, regardless of culture, need to feel loved,” says lead author Jean Ispa in a release on ScienceDaily. “Children take in the meaning of what their mothers are trying to do, so if a mom is being very directive and is generally a very warm person, I think the child feels, 'My mom is doing this because she cares about me, and she's trying to do the best for me.'”