Everyone loves hugs! Hugs are vitally important in the bonding process, and hugs are also very soothing to the nervous system. Here is a brief offering on 3 rules of engagement for hugging children.
Rule of Engagement #1: ASK for a HUG
1) The first is to model asking for hugs, rather than simply taking them. This promotes consent for physical touch which is going to be very important in their later years. It doesn’t have to be awkward or hard, just simply say “May I give you a hug?” or “Would you like to share a hug?”, or even the simplest of requests with your arms open wide and ask “Hug?”.
Rule of Engagement #2: HUG for HEALTH
2) One of the biggest influences on my work has been the well respected and very physically demonstrative therapists of all time, the inimitable Virginia Satir. She had this great philosophy which has become a popular internet meme: “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for our growth”. Hug liberally, hug generously, hug often. Try different types of hugs, bear hugs, gentle bug hugs, full body hugs, compassionate hugs, tender hearted hugs, apology hugs, happy to see you hugs, etc. You get the picture. Hug often, with permission.
Rule of Engagement #3: HUG LONGER
3) One of the best bits of advice I ever got was during a parenting class I took when my kids were very young. I’ve heard iterations of this frequently, and while I cannot corroborate it, I have a feeling it may have come from Dr. John Gottman. The rule is simple: When hugging your child, be the last to let go. Let them disengage from the hug first. This sends the message that you are willing, available and tenacious in your love for your child. It makes you the rock that they land upon for support, and then fly from when they are ready. Seriously, folks, this is the best advice I can give. I still practice this today with my grown sons. I always linger longer and let them let go when they are ready.
Now get out there and get your HUG on!