Unang Yakap, or the First Embrace, is mom’s first skin-to-skin hug with her baby immediately after birth. It is an essential step that is highly recommended by doctors because it transfers a mother's warmth and protective bacteria to her newborn. The World Health Organization (WHO) calls it “life-saving.”
This skin-to-skin contact, whether as an embrace, hug, or any expression of physical affection, continues to be vital to your child's well-being as he grows up.
“Higher self-esteem, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behavior problems have been linked to warmth and affection between parent and child,” said a report from Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization in the U.S.
Figures from the Child Trends report show that 90% of parents with children 3 years old and below gave their child hugs every day. However, displays of warmth decreased as the child grew up with only 74% of mothers and just 50% of fathers saying they hug their 10- to 12-year-old child.
Science offers evidence how hugging as a habit — even past the preschool years — benefits children. “Scientific studies are always a helpful reaffirmation of how important it is to practice loving-kindness and ‘shower the people you love with love,’” said author and coach Christopher Bergland in an article for Psychology Today.
What impact does parental affection have on your child?
1. It helps your child feel less stressed. Don't you feel your stress and exhaustion melting away after a long day at work when you come home to your child's warm embrace? Your little one feels the same way too.
“Parental warmth and affection protect one against the harmful effects of toxic childhood stress,” according to a 2013 study from the University of California, Los Angeles. On the other hand, researchers found that childhood abuse coupled with a lack of parental affection impacts a child’s physical and mental health for life, leading to negative consequences like poor health.
2. Affection during playtime makes your child feel loved. A 2013 study from the University of Missouri-Columbia observed mom-and-child pairs during playtime. Researchers found that moms who showed more affection and used more positive reinforcement during play had a stronger bond with their kids. “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,” said lead author Jean Ispa in a press 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.'
3. It helps you raise a happier and more mentally stable adult. The warmth of your hug can last for years and years. In a study from the University of Notre Dame, more than 600 adults were surveyed about how they were raised, and the researchers found good news about affectionate parents.
“The adults who reported receiving more affection in childhood displayed less depression and anxiety and were more compassionate overall,” said writer Sandi Schwartz in an article for Parent Co. “Those who reported less affection struggled with mental health, tended to be more upset in social situations, and were less able to relate to other people’s perspectives.”
So, moms and dads, those hugs and kisses go a long way!