"A hug is like a boomerang. You get it back right away." - Bil Keane, creator of Family Circus
This is true 90 per cent of the time. But 10 per cent of the time, it's not true -- especially when you're trying to hug a reluctant teen as you drop them off at their friend's house or at school, and even sometimes when you're alone in the house with them. I'm not saying teens won't hug their parents -- mine certainly do, some of the time, even when they don't want money -- but there's usually a time that comes when they'll say, "Not right now. OK, Mom?"
And let's be honest, there are some times when we equally don't want to hug our teens. Maybe they've just finished playing road hockey in the heat for two hours or maybe they've just finished explaining to you how old you are, in case you weren't aware.
But these lanky, sometimes snarling teens weren't born this way. They were once sweet-smelling infants who not only welcomed our hugs, they needed them. We know skin-to-skin contact is important for babies, as Dr. Christine Chambers explains: "Research shows that the real benefits of skin-to-skin care with newborns are as follows: promotion of infant physiologic stability and regulation (e.g. keeping their heart beating at a normal and constant rate), improving sleep, supporting healthy weight gain, increased rates of breast feeding, and improved parent-baby relationship. There is also evidence that early touch can facilitate a positive transition for parents into their new role as a caregiver, and constructively establish the parent-child relationship."
"Kangaroo care," or establishing a skin-to-skin care routine, starts from birth. The benefits can be observed immediately. According to Dr. Chambers, research done shows that there are positive long term effects as children get older as well.
"One recent study found that premature babies who received at least one hour of kangaroo care each day for 14 days had better mother-child interactions, better sleep, better physical outcomes and better outcomes on executive functioning (the processes involved in running the brain and organizing information and memories) when the children were 10 years old," she says. "Research by this same group has also shown more long-term positive family outcomes in children, mothers and fathers when preterm babies received kangaroo care."
Huggies has been working with professionals such as Dr. Chambers, to help educate new parents about the importance of kangaroo care, through their "No Baby Unhugged" program.
Of course, newborns are easy to hug. How do you keep that connection going as the kids get older and more hug-adverse?
1. Make it part of your routine while they're young. Getting a hug before bedtime, upon waking or after school can help set up a standard of hugging many kids will just do out of habit.
2. Don't yell "Give me a hug!" when you drop them off at the school bus stop or see them off from the front step. A hug can be a private thing between mom and kid; inside the front hallway makes it way less awkward for both of you. (I have also learned that yelling "Make good choices!" as they walk down the front steps is not welcome. You're welcome.)
3. "Hug it out." If your child has had a tough day at school and doesn't quite seem themselves, sometimes just throwing them a "walk by" hug in the hallway can help them to remember that you're on their side.
4. Don't force it. But don't hold back. Saying "Hey, buddy, can I have a hug?" is allowing them the opportunity to say no, either verbally or with a lip curl or an eye roll. Try for a sneak attack.
5. Typing in "HUGS" on a Facebook or Instagram post is in no way a hug. At all. Does not count. Hugs are definitely an IRL (in real life) experience.
The teen years are tough for every child and every parent. They're trying to establish some independence, yet still looking for the comfort of being taken care of for their most basic needs. And while they're a teen, you may not get that hug back "right away" as Keane suggests, but it'll be waiting for you when they make that first trip home after going away to college or university. I guarantee it.
They might also just need some money.
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