The Power of Touch-- What a Hug can do for a Child

By Nicole

When you say nothing at all...

It's amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word you can light up the dark
Try as I may I could never explain
What I hear when you don't say a thing
The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There's a truth in your eyes sayin' you'll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you'll catch me if ever I fall
You say it best when you say nothing at all
All day long I can hear people talking out loud
But when you hold me near you drown out the crowd
Old Mr. Webster could never define
What's being said between your heart and mine
The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There's a truth in your eyes sayin' you'll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you'll catch me if ever I fall
You say it best when you say nothing at all

Alison Krauss - When You Say Nothing At All Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

Have you ever had a time where you try using words to comfort your child and realize that it just isn't working? As parents, we might be busy and fail to notice the signs that something is bugging him, or we think that we can talk logically with an emotional child--although our experience tells us this doesn't work! But sometimes, words aren't what he needs, maybe he just needs a healing hug, but doesn't know how to ask for it..

How could a child know how to ask for a hug?--As an adult, it's not always easy to know we need one.

It might just be that he's tired, or something happened at school, or that another child said something that hurt his feelings. We think our child is just being crabby, or over-reacting to a situation that we perceive as minor. We ask, "Is something bothering you?" But, that doesn't work, "NO!" he says. Using the power of touch can can do wonders in reconnecting with your child and then helping him talk more freely about what's really going on inside.  Offering a genuine hug tells your child that you're there for him, that he is safe and he's going to be O.K. It says "You are loved."...without any words.

All children need to be hugged, and they need it every day. As per the article below, people need to be hugged at least 8 times per day!

10 reasons why we need at least 8 hugs a day:

Since each child is unique, each one needs a different amount of touch, and perhaps a different type of touch too. As an OT, we know that some children need deep pressure bear hugs to be their best selves. For those interested in this topic, see the link to website: Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation)

What happens when we give a hug? The child might go from a state of stress and anxiety, to a state of calm. A hug gives such a greater sense of being loved, promotes improved self esteem and feelings of safety.
Everything is Gonna be Alright. 
After a good hug, she might open up and then tell you what's on her mind. Or maybe, after a hug, things just don't seem so bad after all.

My third son is 6 years old. He was upset one evening last week and was crabby in every conversation he had with me. I was busy for awhile and missed the signs that something was bothering him.
"Time for a bath."
"No, I hate washing my hair."
"Let's pack your bag for school tomorrow."
"I'm not going to school tomorrow!"
"Time for bed."
"I don't want to go to bed."
He was crabby about everything.
I sat with him in his bed and I looked at him. I looked at his beautiful blue eyes with long lashes. I thought about how sweet and gentle he looked, I held his hand and then I gave him a long hug. At first he resisted me, as he does when he's upset, but then he gave in and he hugged me back. Then he stopped and said,
"I hated the way you did my hair for school yesterday!"
And there it was, the thing that was bothering him. (I thought to myself, I don't even know how it was different?) Oh, school can be tough sometimes. Another chid had said something that hurt his feelings about his hair. What if I hadn't taken the time to notice? What if I just got angry with him and dismissed him for having negative behavior? Our hug allowed him to open up and gave me the opportunity to hear him. He slept peacefully shortly after.

I became more aware of hugging my children after my divorce. As the custodial parent, I added 'primary hugger' to my list of responsibilities. I felt conscious of the fact that my children were used to living in a home with both parents every day and getting twice as many hugs, so I would have to step up my hugging a few notches! But, unlike the burden of a single parent becoming the primary dishwasher and getting more than her fair share of pots and pans, giving extra hugs was never something that I minded doing.

...the touch of your hand says you'll catch me if ever I fall

Thank you!
Emily McCavanagh, F.I.T. Founder at inspiring me to write about this topic, and to 
Allison Moir-Smith at EmotionallyEngaged for giving me thoughtful feedback and encouragement to continue blogging!


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