Hugging your child shows them that you love them and can also help their brain development!
Numerous studies have shown that there are many benefits of hugging your child and showing them maternal affection.
This is because oxytocin – the feel-good hormone in the brain – is released when a child is happy. Oxytocin helps boost your child’s immune system, makes them feel happy and relaxed, and improves their overall well-being.
The benefits of hugging and a mother’s love
Being warm and affectionate with your little ones has life-long positive outcomes. Let’s face it, humans are primed to thrive with their mother’s love, especially when you’re hugging your child.
Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis conducted brain scans on 92 kids who had had symptoms of depression.
Researchers did these brain scans to help prove the benefits of hugging your child. The scans found that kids without depression and who were regularly hugged by their parents had a larger hippocampus, a brain structure essential to learning, memory and dealing with stress.
There is also research that suggests being warm and affectionate has life-long benefits. Parents who are affectionate with their kids are more likely to raise children with higher self-esteem. They also do better academically and have fewer psychological and behavioural problems.
Meanwhile, kids who grow up lacking affection are more likely to be alienated, hostile, aggressive and antisocial. Even more of a reason to understand the benefits of hugging your child to help them develop.
How to give your child more affection and attention
Skin-to-skin with infants
Hugging your child is a great way to get skin-to-skin contact with your newborn or young infant child. A gentle touch is the main way infants learn to feel safe and secure, especially during times of distress. Start cuddling your child from a young age. You could even give your child a baby massage.
Make eye contact, talk to your baby often and give them lots of cuddles. Many experts agree that ‘letting the baby cry it out’ is outdated.
Make sure you reconnect every day if you have time apart
If you work long hours, make sure you connect with your child at the end of each day. Engaging in parental affection will help you build your bond, and this is just another one of the benefits of hugging your child. Cuddle them while reading a book or watching a movie before they go to sleep.
Talk to them about their day and ask them questions, let them express their feelings, and problem-solve together.
Give your child lots of one on one time
Although there are many benefits of hugging your child, not everyone enjoys a hug. If you aren’t much of a hugger, you can give your child attention by doing fun activities, dancing, colouring etc., with them. Any attention is positive for your little one.
Be loving, even when disciplining
Even if you aren’t happy about a certain behaviour, you still love your child.
Instead of yelling or screaming or being angry with them when they behave in a way you don’t like, explain to your child what they did wrong, why it was wrong, but that you still love them.
Respect your child’s boundaries
Does your child not like cuddles? Just like some adults don’t like hugging, some kids may not enjoy it despite the many benefits of hugging your child. Respect their comfort levels and let them know, without going overboard, that you love them and are there for them always. Also, allow them to be open about these boundaries without feeling hurt and explain them to others.
Showing affection doesn’t need to only happen through physical touch.
Spending time and being connected to your child, whether it’s through hugging, play, or expression, is a critical part of their development.
Get Access to the Healthy Mummy Wellness App
The Healthy Mummy Wellness app is built to support mums’ mental, physical and social well-being.
We have expert advice to help mums makeover their minds, transform their mood, manage their hormones, sleep better and engage with their family.
You can listen to podcasts, read blogs, work out with our trainers and find healthy, family-friendly recipes from the palm of your hand.