Dear Mangrove Families,
Imagine being so overwhelmed by the intensity of the world that your body shakes with fear. What can give you a deep sense of safety and ground you again?
Imagine being overcome by a joy so great that your body bounces with excitement. What can give you a deep sense of togetherness and gratitude?
Heartbroken. Proud. Relieved. Depressed. Excited.
What is something you can always use, in good times and bad times? Although my first instinct is chocolate cake, that isn’t the answer. It’s a hug — a human gesture that says, “Let me be with you as you experience your feeling. I see you. I am here with you,” without speaking a word.
A hug allows your body to be supported by another person when you need it the most, whether it is in order to be held up or brought back down.
A hug doesn’t mean you agree or disagree. A hug doesn’t reinforce or condone. A hug offers humanity and connection, things we cannot survive without and things we need to keep moving forward.
Since Montessori is based on science, let’s explore the science behind a hug. In studies performed at Carnegie Mellon University, researchers found that subjects who felt more supported using hugs were less likely to catch a cold. A separate researcher found that hugging lowers your blood pressure and heart rate. Research has also proven that hugging releases oxytocin, promoting feelings of contentment and lowering stress. In relation, hugging stimulates dopamine and serotonin production. Finally, researchers at Emory University have found that hugging in early childhood relates to lower stress levels in adulthood.
I used to be a terrible hugger. I mean, the worst — stiff as a board. People wanted to show me love but I could not receive it (probably because I needed it so badly that I didn’t know what to do when I got it). So, I actively tried to change that. You know who helped my hugging phobia? The toddlers.
Toddlers live in the moment. Joys. Heartache. They feel it all, and they need support in those big-feeling moments. In helping the toddlers moderate their feelings with a hug, they healed my fear with their love. Amazing how a simple gesture of tiny arms tightly wound around you can reveal your worth to yourself.
I don’t want to say that I am an excellent hugger now, but I know how to give hugs when others need them and, more importantly, how to ask for hugs when I need them.
As we start this New Year and make new resolutions to better ourselves and our experiences, I offer the suggestion of more hugs.
Give hugs. Receive hugs. Model hugs.
When your child is jumping up and down and screaming with excitement and anticipation of an upcoming event, offer words and a touch. “You look so excited. Would you like a hug?” Absorb some of that energy.
When your child is having a full-blown tantrum over a boundary being upheld, offer words and a touch. “It is not available and you are upset. Can I offer you a hug?” Absorb some of their frustration.
The exchange of love and safety felt by both parties will deepen the trust and connection between each other. Bonus tip: These techniques work just as well with adults! Our inner child is often the one at the center of our deep feelings, and that inner child would love a heartfelt hug.
“Hugging is the most beautiful form of communication that allows the other person to know beyond a doubt that they matter.” —Unknown
“Sometimes a hug is the answer, even when the question is unknown.” —M.S.
“Hugs can do a great amount of good, especially for children.” —Princess Diana
“A 20-second hug can release endorphins that lower your stress levels and boost your immune system.” —Dr. Jan Astrom
Ms. Liz & Ms. Yudis
**Although I just spent ALL this time explaining the benefits of a good hug, please remember that the power of a hug only works when it has been welcomed by the receiver of the hug. Here is a link to an article on the importance of respecting a child’s choice NOT to hug another person, even if that person is a relative. Enjoy.