Another Simple Thing: Hug. Kiss. Repeat!

A View from My Window: Reflections of the Executive Director

Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way you feel
Things are gonna be much better if you only will

– James Taylor (Shower The People: Live At The Beacon Theater)

As it turns out, there’s good reason to shower the people you love with love. It’s healthy!

A growing body of research demonstrates that stress and other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) alter brain chemistry, causing serious health issues down the road (obesity, heart disease, addiction, and suicide, to name a few). On the flip side, however, children bathed in affection tend to have higher self-esteem, less anxiety, and greater success in school. Not surprisingly, they’re also more healthy and happy as adults.

Scientists suspect that expressions of love and connection release oxytocin in children’s brains. In addition to building trust and facilitating bonding, that beneficial hormone helps kids feel good all over.

“Children need a safe place, physically close to their real-life heroes when they feel scared or nervous,” observes MaryBeth Hernandez, Family Support and Intake Specialist at Children’s Center.

She continues: When caregivers look them in the eye, give them attention, smile at them, and show them physical affection, they feel loved and valued. With my children, I would often discipline with one hand gently placed on a shoulder, a little hand held inside mine, or a pat on the back. A lesson imparted with a hug will be remembered far longer than cold, distant words, because it will be associated with good feelings of parental love. Children will feel secure and know their position in the relationship and home is not in jeopardy.

Of course, every child is different. One of my daughters refused to hold my hand once she entered kindergarten. Her younger sister, by contrast, never stopped. Even now, as a 31-year-old mother of two, she’ll still snuggle up for a hug at every opportunity. So, while it’s essential to be affectionate, it’s also important to be respectful—and to touch children in ways that make them feel comfortable and secure—not awkward or ashamed.

Bottom line: kids need affection. Hug them! Kiss them! Give them a gentle pat on the back as often as possible (not just when they’ve done something wonderful)! Unconditional love is the best kind.

If you’re not already doing it, start showering the children you love with love. They’ll certainly appreciate it. And things will “truly be much better”—for them and you!