hug delights and warms and charms,
that must be why God gave us arms."~Author Unknown
In the last couple of months, I've been reflecting on the power of a hug to convey love and friendship, warmth and encouragement, comfort and empathy. I've looked at both sides of hugs...as a greeting and as a farewell...as well as the wonderful warmth of affirming and empowering hugs.
In a recent visit with three of my young grandsons in Pennsylvania I was inspired to try an experiment. What is the optimal duration of a grandfather/grandson hug? My very small sampling suggests three to five to seconds is ideal for hugs with squirmy young grandsons. With that research in hand, I dug a little deeper looking for serious scientific inquiries into the question of what the ideal duration of a hug might be.
To my amazement I found a study by British psychologist Emese Nagy of the duration and nature of hugs among the athletes at the 2008 Summer Olympics. The average duration of these spontaneous hugs (including touching before and after the embrace) was 4.81 seconds.
But perhaps much more important than the duration of a hug, particularly when it comes to hugs for our children and grandchildren, is the frequencies with which we give hugs.
Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, has said "(w)e need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs for maintenance. We need twelves hugs a day for growth." And, research in a Korea orphanage demonstrated a significant boost in the health and growth of infant orphans who received an extra 15 minutes a day of physical touching.
There is a magic in hugging. This simple form of affection boosts a young child's mental and physical development. Hugging aids in the development of life skills.
Sadly, research shows that female infants receive almost five times as much hugging and touching as males. And the Univ. of Pittsburgh reports that when it comes to soothing, holding or playing, American children receive significantly less contact than those of other cultures. As our children grow older we tend to forget the importance of hugging. Yet, it may be as vital for teenagers to be hugged and affirmed as it is for young children.
So let's commit ourselves today to a practice of hugging. And, here's just some of the myriad daily opportunities for you and your child or grandchild to experience the Fusion of Hugging:
- Say good morning with a hug
- Say good night with a hug and a kiss
- Hug your child when they come home from school or when you get home from work
- Hug your child when you pick them up from day-care or the babysitter's
- Say thank-you with a hug
- Hug them to appreciate when they've done their chores
- Hug your child after a performance or game
- Hug them on your (their) way out the door in the morning
- Hug them and whisper "I Love You" as a Random Moment of Affection
- Hug them before they leave on a date and on their return
- Hug them when they have had a bad day or run into adversity
- Hug them when they recount a special accomplishment or moment in their life
"The best gift you can give is a hug. One size fits all and no one minds if you return it."