Hugs and kisses feel great!

Hugs and kisses feel great!
Warm and affectionate physical contact with your child can help calm her when she’s agitated and make her feel always loved.

Warm and affectionate physical contact with your child can help calm her when she’s agitated and make her feel always loved.

When 3-year-old Mathilde hurts herself while playing, she seeks comfort from her parents. A kiss to make it better and off she goes again on a new adventure. “At night before bed, she gets her fill of hugs too,” adds her mom, Sarah. “She’s very cuddly.”

“Attachment is not built on physical contact alone, but it’s an important ingredient in the parent-child bond,” says Geneviève Lafleur, educational psychologist at CHU Sainte-Justine. Touch is the first means of communication between a newborn and her parents. By taking your baby in your arms, rubbing her back or gently massaging her, you show her that she’s not alone and that she’s important to you. Skin-to-skin contact at birth also makes the newborn feel safe and facilitates the transition from mom’s tummy to the outside world.

Research shows that the more we touch our babies, the less they cry. Chantal can relate, since she often used a baby carrier with her daughter. “At first, Zahara Léonie needed to be stuck to me or she would cry. I could reassure her with the baby carrier, while leaving my hands free to do other things.”

Physical contact is a good way to comfort your baby and show her that you love her.

Is there a risk of spoiling a baby if you always have her with you or if you run to her at the slightest cry? “Before 18 months old, a child can’t throw a tantrum and you can’t spoil her,” says Geneviève Lafleur. “If she asks to be comforted, it’s because that’s what she needs.” You don’t spoil your child when you respond quickly to her needs. Rather, you are showing her that she can count on you. You are also helping her to feel secure and trust you, which creates a solid attachment bond between you.

Some children are more cuddly by nature. Others become less comfortable with hugs and kisses as they grow. It’s important to respect your child’s limits. If you smother your toddler with kisses and she pushes you away, turns her head or stops looking at you, it’s because she’s had enough. When that happens, it’s best not to insist.

If she doesn’t like hugs and kisses, you can show her your love by running your hand through her hair, patting her on the back, blowing her a kiss, winking at her, saying “I love you,” or smiling at her. “You can also let her take the initiative by telling her that you’d love to give her a big hug when she feels like one,” suggests Geneviève Lafleur.

Naître et grandir

Source : Magazine Naître et grandir, March 2016
Research and copywriting : Nathalie Vallerand
Scientific review : Ellen Sheiner-Moss, professor with the Department of Psychology at UQAM and Director of the Centre for Study of Attachment and the Family

Photo : Sabeva