Sunday August 10 2014

Benefits of hugging children


By Stephen Wandera

Admit it. Nothing gives you comfort like a warm hug. Whether you are wrapped in the arms of your partner or greeting a friend, hugs have a way of making us feel warm inside.

Aside from making us feel protected and loved, this touching gesture can also do wonders for our well-being.

So whether it is a simple squeeze, a big bear hug or some cute cuddling, -- there are plenty of reasons why we should embrace the act of, embracing someone.
“When you go back home today, demand a huge hug from at least your mother.

This is a sign of a happy family and do not be shy of it. However a hug is not for everyone in society. Be careful who you hug. Do not accept hugs from corrupt people in society,” Rev Fr James Tibezinda cautioned students in Hoima recently.

This is not any different from a saying by Virginia Satir, an author and family therapist, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” This is a need for most children to feel loved and protected.

In Uganda, hugging is common among the folks in western Uganda unlike in the north and other regions. Hugging is a form of greeting, comforting, bonding, affection, possession and protection, among others.

A sign of reconciliation
If you are bible reader, remember in Luke 15, The story of the prodigal son. He returned to his father after squandering his wealthy away. In an instance which should have caused a fight or heated exchange between the two, he was forgiven and embraced warmly by the father.

So, hugging was an act of reconciliation between the father and son. The more reason parents should hug their children.
Uganda Health Communication Alliance coordinator Richard Tinkasiimire Baguma, agrees with Fr Tibezinda’s message.

“I hug my children many times. If I go home and I do not hug my children, they would be shocked and wonder what has happened to daddy,” he said.

Most parents believe that hugging children creates a closer bond as a family. Rukia Ngobi, the coordinator of Nakawa Home Based Givers Alliance, says children that are hugged by their parents are less vulnerable to being confused when they reach adolescence.

“When you hug children, calling her or him by the endearments like sweetie, honey, that child especially if it is a girl will not be deceived by a man. When a man approaches a girl and calls her sweetie that may be the first time to hear such words, that girl can easily be manipulated by men,” she said.

Agnes Chandiru, head of nutrition at Ministry of Health also concurs with the man of God.
“When I hug a child, he or she feels good and I also feel good and loved. I encourage parents to do the same.”

Foreign culture
However, Eugene Tugume, a civil servant at Uganda Prisons says hugging is a foreign culture that was introduced to dilute ours.

“In traditional African culture, men come back home either from work or having a social evening, children are in the back yard playing, in their room eating or sleeping. You would find one man with five women and about 50 children, if he starts hugging children, what time would he finish? These are foreign cultures that waste time and we should not welcome them,” he said.

The scientific view

Hugs make us feel good.
According to DePauw University psychologist Matt Hertenstein, when we embrace someone, oxytocin (also known as “the cuddle hormone”) is released, making us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The chemical has also been linked to social bonding. “Oxytocin promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding,” Hertenstein says adding, it lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.

More hugs = lower blood pressure
The hormones that are released in the body after a hug aren’t just good for happy feelings - they can also help your physical health.

According to NPR report, “When someone touches you, the sensation on your skin activates pressure receptors called Pacinian corpuscles, which then send signals to the vagus nerve, an area of the brain that is responsible for (among many things) lowering blood pressure.”

Hugging can be good for our hearts
Embracing someone may warm your heart, but according to one study a hug can be good medicine for it too: In an experiment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill , participants who did not have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of 10 beats per minute compared to the five beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment.

Well-hugged babies are less stressed as adults.
Want to do something for future generations? Hug them when they’re still little.

An Emory University study in rats found a link between touch and relieving stress, particularly in the early stages of life.

The research concluded that the same can be said of humans, citing that babies’ development -- including how they cope with stress as adults -- depends on a combination of nature and nurture.

Hugs are a natural stress reliever
Feeling stressed? Go give someone a hug. When we embrace, we immediately reduce the amount of the stress hormone cortisol produced in our bodies.

Hugs also make our bodies release tension and send calming messages to the brain.