When it comes to “love languages,” there is no doubt that my top language is words of affirmation. I love encouraging words, and I probably tell my people I love them a million times a day in a million different ways.
For a long time, I would have put physical touch at the top of the list as well, but I’ve realized that that’s only true for me in certain relationships…specifically with my husband and my tinies.
It’s been somewhat disconcerting to realize over the years that I actually have a harder time with physical touch as my kids get older, and even more so as they move into adolescence. I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised since I’m not much of a hugger in general, but it has definitely caught me by surprise since I love to snuggle and cuddle my babies, toddlers and preschoolers.
When I confessed this in a Facebook group for moms of adolescent girls several months ago, I was thankful to discover I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. (Because, honestly, I really hate this reluctance to touch them.)
But I also realized that I need to be more intentional about doing it anyway.
I decided to start experimenting with intentionally giving them hugs even when it’s not my natural inclination, and the result has been…well, pretty amazing.
It seems obvious that a hug would help when one of our girls is upset or sad, but I’ve also found that our oldest daughter just melts in my arms when I hug her while she’s angry.
A hug seems to diffuse just about any situation with her, whether it’s hurt over something her sister has done, frustration at a decision we’ve made, anger over a perceived injustice, or feeling overwhelmed by school or chores. And a random hug during the day makes all of our girls just light up.
I have no idea how long a hug will maintain these magical properties, but it really does seem like magic because it changes the dynamic of any situation so very quickly.
There’s no doubt that this is somewhat dependent on the child’s personality. Our second daughter tends to resist hugs when she’s angry or upset, preferring to withdraw into herself. But we give her hugs anyway to remind her that she’s loved even when she’s angry or frustrated with us. It takes her a little longer to melt and let go of the anger, but eventually it works just the same.
For many moms, this probably seems like a no-brainer. If hugs for your older kids come easily to you, you’ve probably already seen their impact. But for those of us who find it a little harder, I promise it’s worth the effort!
Like the power of a smile, it’s amazing how something so simple can have such a big impact.