Are you a cuddler? If so, you’ll love these 9 reasons to make your kids cuddle you. 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 am not even joking.
I pin them to the floor and roll around with them. I pick them up and bite (gently with no teeth) their ribs, their tummies, and their legs.
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 like rule kids.
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.
Here’s Why Cuddling Benefits Children’s Brains
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, and the same is true of children.
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.
2. Cuddling and hugs help teach children who to trust
One common behavior among children who did not receive loving physical touch in the early years is “indiscriminate friendliness” (source). They 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
“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.
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.“
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.”