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National Cuddle Up Day

Family cuddling on sofa

By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

National Cuddle Up Day encourages us to snuggle up with someone for the health benefits and more.

I’m not sure that I was prepared sufficiently in the run-up to adulthood to understand the lasting importance of a simple act families do every day, nor did I appreciate the science behind it. This involves parents interacting with their children of any age, sometimes with specific intent, and other times intuitively or unconsciously. However and whenever it happens, it has many important short- and long-term benefits for physical and emotional health and, can I add, it is wonderful. As we snuggle in for National Cuddle Up Day this January 6 and beyond, let us reflect on the shared benefits of cuddling with our children.

To count as a hug or a snuggle and to have the desired emotional effect, you must make physical contact and give a loving, nurturing squeeze for about 8 seconds or more, according to research. For the recipient (and very likely, the giver), a loving hug promotes the release of oxytocin, known variously as the ‘feel-good’ or ‘affection’ hormone. Indeed, we know that oxytocin promotes several important biological processes that are immensely important to a growing child. It promotes the release of hormones that boost growth, bolster immunity and lower inflammation. Quite literally, cuddles can help your child get bigger and stronger.

In turn, frequent cuddles and snuggles in families are associated with children who have less anxiety during their childhood and teenage years. This may be due, in part, to the unspoken messages hugging and handholding can convey, including the love, appreciation and feeling valued by their family and loved ones. We know that in children who receive little or no nurturing contact, a lack of hugs and snuggles over time leads them to have lower cognitive scores and a higher risk of behavioral and emotional problems.

Snuggling promotes health, and it benefits everyone involved most when it is engaged in on a regular basis and in a loving manner. Snuggles are not a chore but a joy. Find ways to connect with your little ones and, if it helps your reluctant tween or teen, get the family dog or cat involved. Plunk down on the couch and hang out. Hold hands and take a walk. Sit side by side and scratch your child’s back as you read a story together. Do whatever works for you and your crew.

Over time, children who find snuggles to be comforting may be more likely to develop some inner resilience, and that helps them appreciate the importance of connection and contact with their loved ones. Snuggles may last only moments, and you may need to make time in your busy day to make them happen. However, this National Cuddle Up Day, feel inspired by the fact that the goodness of hugs can make an impact over a lifetime.