Are you a cuddler? I am! But even if you are not a naturally physically affectionate person, you can learn to show the right amount of touch. Here’s how cuddling actually helps their brains. And yours too!
I cuddle my kids so tightly I’m surprised I’ve not broken one of their ribs.
I pin them to the floor and roll around with them. We wrestle as I tickle their bellies and legs. Physical affection comes easy for us.
I give them bear hugs and cradle them, no matter their age, and just generally mess with them until they are begging me to let them go play without mom.
I even have an “I’m going to come get you and smother you with my love” look that makes them laugh hysterically and run away.
Now that I write about it that sounds creepy…
Anyway, I think it’s okay. It’s good. It’s right. And Even If They Pull Away, it’s good for them.
Cuddling Benefits Your Childs Brain
Cuddling is an important tool in our parenting toolbox, and one that fosters connection and feelings of safety and security.
And it does have benefits beyond a warm touch or the fuzzy feeling of a kiss on the cheek.
1. Physical touch releases happy hormones.
Physical touch actually triggers a hormone to be released in our brains. The hormone is oxytocin (source). This is important for mothers because it helps form an emotional bond.
The same is true for children. Cuddling is good for kids because it helps form strong emotional bonds.
This hormone helps give mothers the “my child is irresistible” feeling and it’s why taking time hug your child can change your mood.
Interestingly enough, if children were deprived of physical touch for a very prolonged feeling – even in adulthood – a cuddle or hug can release oxytocin to a negative effect, giving them suspicious feelings instead of loving ones.
This is why it’s important that we make physical touch the norm in our home.
Emotions are a H U G E part of a young child’s life. These “I Am Feeling” cards will reduce tantrums, meltdowns, and help your little one learn emotional awareness.Learn More
2. Cuddling is good for kids because it helps teach them who to trust.
One common behavior among children who did not receive loving physical touch in the early years is “indiscriminate friendliness” (source). As you can imagine… this is a dangerous trait.
Children who have indiscriminate friendliness are super friendly and trusting to most any adult without a wise understanding that not all adults are “their adults.”
By giving your child the physical affection they crave, They Don’t Need to Seek It Out Elsewhere.
Children feel more attached and bonded to their parents since there is another level of trust and familiarity there they do not have with other adults.
3. Physical touch reduces stress and increases resilience.
Cuddling is good for kids for another reason… it reduces stress and increases resilience.
It’s every mothers dream to have strong and resilient children. It’s an important life skill that can really benefit you as an adult.
“When you get a loving and firm hug, it stimulates pressure receptors under the skin, which in turn send a message to the vagus nerve in your brain.
The vagus nerve takes this cue to slow down your heart rate and your blood pressure, putting you in a relaxed state.
The hug even curbs stress hormones such as cortisol, facilitates food absorption and the digestion process, and stimulates the release of serotonin, which counteracts pain.” ~ The Connected Child
It’s why your child runs to you for comfort when they fall down, get a boo boo, or have hurt feelings. That hug actually releases stress emotions and helps calm the nerves. Good stuff!
Read: Practical, Emotional, and Natural Tips To Help A Stressed Mom Cope
4. Cuddling communicates love.
A hug says, “Come to me, I care for you.”
We hug after we’ve had tense feelings and that says, “Even when we get frustrated, we still love each other.”
A Cuddle at Bedtime says, “Right now there is nothing more important than to be with you.”
A hug in a crowded room or busy place says, “Of all these people, you are mine.“
Read: 5 Reasons Bedtime Stories are More Important Than You Think
Pull out these fun connecting questions to share some laughs with your precious ones!
Use them at:
- meal times
- car rides
- as a “calm down” trick
- for dinner time conversation
- or any time the day is getting chaotic or
- you need a reset to connect.
5. Hugs communicate safety.
When a child feels loved and taken care of, they feel safe. If your child is feeling nervous or scared, go in for physical touch. Your words are so important and coupled with physical touch they will calm your child’s nerves and help them feel safe.
If your child feels in danger, pull them close to you. Your presence has a calming effect on them. Safety is hugely important to children who crave security and stability from their parents.
Don’t underestimate the importance of touch.
A hug when they wake up to say “good morning.”
A cuddle when they’re in your lap reading a book.
A touch on the arm, shoulder or head as you walk past.
It’s not grand gestures, but the consistent display of affection that signals to your children… “My Mom is For Me.”
BETTY HITTENBERGER says
I love it. I was tickling and cuddling my “almost 4 year old” grandson” I didn’t know it did so much for him!
Thank you for your research. Hugs! >
I found this post via your “wind down” post. My baby is 9 months old and I can NOT figure out what helps her wind down. She is SO ACTIVE. When she takes a bath she gets riled up. When I try to massage her, put oils on her, change her diaper, she continually tries to crawl away. When I put her on my lap she just tries to crawl off, or go for the boob. When I try to read her a book she just tries to eat it. I do all this with the lights dimmed, white noise on, and a diffuser going with lavender in it! I do this for naps and bed time (no bath at nap time). I’ve tried bath and no bath as well. Do you have any tips for what I might not be thinking of that would help her settle?
She does not calm when I’m holding her either. The only way I can ever get her to relax is by letting her nurse. And that is after I’ve fed her a big dinner of avocados and yogurt, so filling stuff.
Rachel Norman says
Jessica, she could just be an active little one! I think nursing or feeding to calm down is probably fine, honestly, unless it’s causing a huge problem?
This is such a beautifully, truthfully crafted blog!
beautiful messages Rachel
Rachel Norman says
Thanks so much :)
Thanks so much for this Rachel. Needed this today as my almost three-year-old is dropping her nap and really acting out. We also have a 4 month old, and so she’s not getting as many cuddles as she used to and sometimes I don’t feel like giving her any cuddles when she’s playing up! So good to hear how important it is to smother them with physical affection for their sense of security as well as feeling loved and connected.
Thank you for your post
I have a six and a half year old who has a huge need for cuddles, since she was born.
I could not put her in a bed or pram, when she was a baby, she just screamed.
Even now we cuddle about one hour a day if we have time, or more if possible. We talk or play or read or watch something while cuddling or we just cuddle.
I love cuddling so it suits me.
But I found your post because I worried there is something wrong with needing so much physical affection. She only needs it from me.
I’m separated from her dad and co parenting for a few years.
So my daughter and I don’t see each other every weekend. And she complains that I work too much and that she doesn’t see me enough.
So it’s a relief to read that cuddling is only a good thing for her and me. :)
Rachel Norman says
I would never worry about that! :)