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12 Hugs a Day


Do you know that we need 12 hugs a day for growth?


World-renowned researcher & therapist, Virginia Satir states “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”

What? How are you doing with getting 12 a day? If you are like me, probably not hitting it every day.

How many of us can say we get that many a day? For some, getting twelve a week might be a stretch. Given everything that has happened in our world in the past couple of years between social distancing and emotional distancing due to disagreements over politics and the state of the world, many of us are hug deprived.

I also think for some, they simply aren’t used to hugging. They didn’t have parents who showed physical affection and now have partners that don’t, or maybe they don’t. I see this as I observe other parents and their children, as well as with clients who tell me how much they miss just getting a hug once in a while. I believe we should be open to hugging and encouraging our children to know when they need a hug. Unfortunately, having others meeting this need, or filling their bucket as we call it, isn’t always possible.

For example, my youngest plays hockey, and whenever he comes off the ice, he runs toward his father and me. He used to jump into our arms, but now he’ll quietly come up and put his arms around us, careful not to draw attention from his teammates. Each time he is on (or off) the ice and one of his teammates have scored a goal or prevented one, his first instinct is to hug them. Unfortunately, the older he gets, the more kids around him don’t want to hug him. They will ignore him, move, or even push him away. We’ve had to work with him to understand that not everyone is comfortable with hugging and he has to allow others to not hug him. This is hard for a kid who is so full of empathy and a desire to let others know he loves them (see last week’s blog). He knows he needs hugs and that other kids do too. Understanding why others don’t want them has been hard for him to comprehend.

And it’s not just at sports that he is experiencing the lack of human affection. Last week he came home visibly upset from school. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me it makes him mad and sad that no one at school hugs him anymore. Not the teacher, not the other kids. He said, sometimes I just need a hug. It makes me feel better. Now, I get why as kids get older teachers don’t hug, but it hurts my heart that other children don’t either. Research shows that hugs strengthen the immune system, decrease fear, and increases safety, self-esteem, & self-love. And let’s be honest, it just helps us get through a day sometimes. And sometimes, it’s the kindness another needs to make through a tough situation or a rough math class.

So while there is less hugging going on for my child, I’ve also seen incredible role models that much like my child, know the power of a hug at the right moment. This past summer, Kaiden Shelton and Isaiah Jarvis taught us more about empathy and kindness through a hug than anyone I can recall in a long time. During the first inning of a Little League Southwest Region championship game a pitcher, Kaiden Shelton, hit 12-year-old batter Isaiah Jarvis in the head so hard it knocked his helmet off. Luckily, Isaiah recovered and ran to first base. Kaiden was shaken though. It was then that Isaiah walked to the pitcher’s mound and hugged Kaiden. Despite being two kids from opposite teams in a battle to get the Little League World Series when competition is at its greatest, Isaiah put aside what team he was on and helped another person in need. It was a moment in sports that stopped the game, the spectators, and the nation alike. Isiah could have reacted with anger or ignored Kaiden’s reaction, but instead, he chose to see his pain and reassure him that they both were okay. I marvel at Isaiah’s kindness and empathy in a world that doesn’t value hugging and has a ‘competition at all cost mentality. Their hug quickly went viral and made every news channel across the country. Because of a simple hug. A reassurance, hey, I’m okay. And you’re okay. It went against the norm and connected these two for a lifetime. Not even the coaches reacted the way Isaiah did. He is the example I choose to share with my child when he sees someone hurting or needing a hug. Kindness and empathy win out in my book.

We could all learn a lot from Isaiah and Kaiden, and our children. Hugs help us in so many ways. Go hug your kids, partners, friends, and anyone who you think needs it today. You need it too.

Authentic & Bravely yours,


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