Global Hug your Kids Day, will be celebrated on July 18. Michelle Nichols, an award-winning entrepreneur, initiated the memorial after her son died suddenly at the age of eight from brain cancer in 1998.
Are we raising children in a touch-deprived culture? If so, should things change? The mission Michelle had was simple: every mother and father around the world should hug their (child)ren on that day and every day, following that one! While it may appear natural to hug, in some cultures, it is deemed taboo to, especially, have a father hug a daughter. However, science proves that there are health benefits that exist from parental hugging and touching.
Ever stopped to ask why a crying child is comforted, when an adult walks into the room and picks them up? A review of research, conducted by Tiffany Field, a leader in the field of touch, found that pre-term newborns, who received just three 15-minute sessions of touch therapy each day for five to10 days, gained 47 per cent more weight than premature infants who had received standard medical treatment.
Another study by French psychologist Nicolas Gueguen, found that when teachers pat students in a friendly way, those students are three times as likely to speak up in class. Touch, is said to be, a therapeutic way to reach some of the most challenging children.
This week, I was privileged to be at Compassionate Hands for the Disabled Foundation in Ruai, a special school run by Madame Anne Njeri Mutua, since 2008. The majority of the 86 children in the home suffer from cerebral palsy. Two physiotherapists who care for them say while many suffer spastic and involuntary movement and have difficulty sitting up, touching, hugging and talking to these children, makes them happy.
In a different study, children who experienced affection deprivation at a young age had lower levels of oxytocin and vasopressin (hormones that have been linked to emotion and social bonding) even after spending years in a family home.
The Touch Research Institute found that teens have less anxiety, feel less hostile and parents perceive less aggressive attitudes, when they received a therapeutic touch-like, massage. In the words of an unknown author: “Hugs were invented to let people know you love them, without having to say anything.” The author is Senior Communications and Media Officer, World Vision, Kenya