When we have babies and toddlers we simply LOVE hugging them, kissing them and saying “I love you so”! It is so natural to do so, that we don’t really think twice about it.
As children hit their 4th year and beyond, the hugs, kisses and “I love yous” seem to start shrinking….probably without us realising really…at least that is what happened to me!
I remember clearly when I became aware of this. My youngest was 2 and my older two where 8 and 6. I was showing my affection to him as usual while waiting for them to get out of school. When they did come out, looking all tired and bothered, I kind of looked at these two children of mine and felt myself going cold.
I knew I hugged them and kissed them…. but not as often as their younger brother… but I couldn’t in that moment in time remember when I said I love you last. It chilled me and made me feel so sad and from that moment I kept this in my mind and heart and never let myself forget it.
Of course, as children grow older, they will start telling you off for hugging, kissing and saying I love you – especially if it is in front of their friends. Also it is normal for teens to refuse such showing of affection, telling us that they do not need it because they know we love them.
That said, the act of hugging has been shown through various research that it cause a decrease in the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, and other research indicates that hugs decrease your blood pressure and heart rate in stressful situations. Nurturing touch (and words) are not just for the younger children but are as vital for the older child and teen.
You might want to be more creative in how you show this when your child starts refusing them; like doing a high five, tousling hair…. the thing is that the older child but especially teens are most times touch deprived -whether they are aware of it and do not acknowledge it or not.
According to family therapists, everyone (including our teens) need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.” That may seem like a lot of hugs – especially for teens that are not quite keen on being touched any more. Yet, as I mentioned before, if a traditional hug won’t do, other ways of touch can still help and are important to find the right time to do it.
The I love you, is also still important and can be done casually with a “just wanted to remind you that I love you” or leaving them a note somewhere where they find it or becoming REALLY knowledgeable about your child, that you use their love language to show love without the need to express it verbally (unless they need words to be shown love of course!).
So in knowing, how a simple hug can improve your child’s life well being and I love you give you that glow of warmth inside that also improves your life with a feeling of belonging….. just go and show your love and affection to your child, don’t wait any more!