When a baby is born, one of the first things that medical professionals do is to let the mother hold the child. That first skin-to-skin contact is crucial, which the World Health Organization labels as “life-saving,” allows the newborn to benefit not only from the mother’s warmth but also her protective bacteria.
That precious moment, according to experts, is just the start of it and many studies have proven that expressing physical affection brings lifelong advantages for the child.
US-based non-profit Child Trends tells us that “higher self-esteem, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behavior problems have been linked to warmth and affection between parent and child.”
The research group further reported that 90% of parents with children 3 years old and younger said they hugged their children everyday. However, the number significantly dropped once the child reaches 10 to 12 years as 74% of mothers and 50% of fathers only hugged their kids.
Meanwhile, author and coach Christopher Bergland explained in Psychology Today:
“Scientific studies are always a helpful reaffirmation of how important it is to practice loving-kindness and ‘shower the people you love with love.’”
Hugging helps a child deal with stress.
As many parents would attest, a child’s embrace after a tiring day at work can lessen feelings of exhaustion. Apparently, that’s also how children feel.
A 2013 study by the University of California, Los Angeles confirms:
“Parental warmth and affection protect one against the harmful effects of toxic childhood stress.”
Hugging a child during playtime makes them feel loved.
In 2013, a study from the University of Missouri-Columbia followed mom-and-child pairs during playtime and discovered that mothers who expressed greater affection and used more positive reinforcement had closer relationships with their children.
In comparison, “children whose parents spent too much time directing play showed ‘more negative feelings’ towards their mothers,” according to Deseret News.
As lead author Jean Ispa shared:
“We know that children, regardless of culture, need to feel loved.
“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.’
Lastly, hugging helps children grow into mentally stable adults.
Over 600 adults participated in a survey conducted by researchers from the University of Notre Dame and the findings are undeniable – the benefits of hugging goes beyond the childhood years.
Writer Sandi Schwartz pointed out:
“The adults who reported receiving more affection in childhood displayed less depression and anxiety and were more compassionate overall.
“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.”
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