Becoming A Master Hugger
“Sometimes it’s better to put love into hugs than to put it into words.” (Author Unknown) That’s why parents need to become hugging experts. I don’t mean learning to hug as a past-time or a passing fad. No, parents have to become master huggers. In fact, I invite you to join the National Association of Master Huggers, the NAMH (don’t worry, I just made it up and there are no dues or fees to become a member). In order to become a full-fledged master hugger in this elite organization, you need to proceed through three levels. (Click on picture to right to see video of Juan Mann’s journey to “Master Hugger.”)
The novice level involves physically hugging your children. Hug your children on a daily basis. Put your arm around their shoulder when you stand or sit together. Physically hugging your child communicates love and value. It brings a sense of safety and security to your child. Your affection creates a greater sense of self-worth in your child’s life. As a novice member, you enjoy several benefits. For instance, experts tell us that loving touch may actually decrease promiscuity in girls (McDowell) and violence (Leman) in boys. Babies who receive loving touch grow better. Adults who comfortably give and receive loving touch are more open, tend to have lower blood pressure, and even live longer.
Members reach the apprentice level when they learn to hug their children verbally. Children love to hear their parents express pride in their effort or ability. They long to hear their parent recognize them for who they are and what they can do. When we acknowledge our children in these ways, we verbally hug them. We also offer a verbal hug when we acknowledge their emotions and help them find a way to label and manage those emotions. Other methods of verbal hugging include talking about your child’s interests, acknowledging your child’s talents and strengths, admiring their effort at a task, acknowledging their courage, or providing a “verbal snapshot” of some positive behavior. Giving your children multiple verbal hugs on a daily basis will help them feel safe, secure, loved, and valued. Apprentice benefits include a stronger, more intimate relationship with your child.
The final step to becoming a master hugger in the NAMH involves hugging your children with your thoughts; in other words, holding them in mind. Master huggers hold their children in mind by keeping their children’s interests, strengths, and needs in their thoughts…even when their children are not with them. Master huggers hold their child’s daily activities in mind and ask about them at the end of the day. They remember their children’s friends and inquire about them from time to time. Master huggers recognize the current challenges in their children’s lives. They not only keep those challenges in mind, but they verbally acknowledge the courage and persistence their children display when facing those challenges. Holding your child in mind, hugging them with your thoughts, expresses how much you value them and love them. (click on picture to see them “hug it forward” in New Zealand.)
When members learn to hug their children physically, verbally, and “mindfully,” they become Master Huggers, members of an elite group of men and women changing family generations…one hug at a time.