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Hugs Are Important to Children
Hugs Carry Messages
What does it mean when someone hugs you or does not hug you? We see people hugging at home, on the streets, in movies, at school, at church, and in many different settings. Are they all hugging for the same reasons? Is it just something that people do. Is it a "just because" action that humans are expected to perform?
Some people do hug just because they think that they should or are expected to.
Some people are just "huggy. A person who is "huggy" is someone who always hugs whether it is a greeting hug, a condolence hug, an I love you hug, a good-bye hug, a please hug, and so on. They seem to always hug.
Some people hug to share concern.
Some people hug because they are glad to see the person that they are hugging.
Some people hug because they don't know what else to do.
Some people hug because they need a hug.
I always found myself trying to dodge hugs. I would find ways to not make others think that this is a time to hug. Sometimes I was successful and sometimes I was not.
In my late 30s as a teacher, I began to recognize how much a real hug meant to children and how perceptive children were about hugs. I was the teacher who did not hug just because it was the appropriate time for a hug. My hugs were spontaneous and many times surprised me. If you are really paying attention to a child you will sense their need for a hug.
Anytime a child hugged me I was glad to hug them back. But,because I was not huggy (which is not a bad thing, I don't mean to belittle it), my hugs were very sincere and that is what I loved about the hugs from children, the sincerity. I realized how important hugs were to children and how many of them look forward to your hugs.
My hugs said that I care about you and everything that comes with you. Their hugs conveyed many messages to me and when they did not want a hug I wanted to know why. There was usually a reason and my concern for them insisted that I pay close attention to them that day.
"Willie's Not the Hugging Kind"
Reading "Willie's Not the Hugging Kind," several years ago reminded me of my earlier observations of children and hugging. There are many reasons why children feel they don't want or need a hug. This insiteful story written by Joyce Durham Barrett and illustrated by Pat Cummings shares one of those reasons.
Willie was a young boy whose family hugged each other often, but Willie had convinced his family that he was not the hugging kind, and eventually they stopped hugging him. Deep inside Willie wanted a hug more that anything. He noticed how his family hugged in the mornings and when his teacher hugged one of his classmates.
However, when his teacher hugged his good friend Jo-Jo, Jo-Jo acted as if he did not like it and would shout "Help! Help! I'm being mugged!" Jo-Jo had told Willie that hugging was silly and would laugh when Willie's father hugged him good-bye.
So, Willie stopped hugging.
Peer pressure is one reason why some children don't choose to hug. It is not that they don't want to hug but they don't want appear silly or weak in the eyes of their peers.
I wonder what was life like at home for Jo-Jo. Who did he look up to and had he experienced any inappropriate touching?
A Hug Can Change the Temperature of a Situation
I believe that one reason why I try to avoid hugging is because I fear rejection. I am not sure what will happen after the hug. This is not a conscious thought but an underlying feeling that I was not even aware of until I really tried to understand my not wanting to hug. When I sense that someone else really needs a hug, I still have to push myself to do it.
Because I now realize my fear, I hug a lot more often.
A hug is a powerful expression and the lack of hugs can send the wrong message to those who do not receive hugs. They tend to assume that something is wrong with them.
Inappropriate hugs also send the wrong message to those who are receiving them.
Therefore we must HUG. Children need to know that they are loved and that others genuinly care about them.
Hugs can make them feel secure and safe. Hugs can boost their self-esteem. Hugs can desolve their anger.
A hug can say to them that you are not alone.
CHILDREN WANT AND NEED TO BE HUGGED!