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Hugging isn’t just something that’s nice to do, it’s actually a very important building block for your child’s development and happiness. Not only is hugging important for their development, it also packs a myriad of science-based benefits.

With the pandemic restrictions and the normal hustle and bustle of life, it can be easy to let life get away from us. However, now more than ever, kids need hugs, love and reassurance from their parents. If you are wondering what the benefits are for hugging, here are 8 (science-based) benefits for hugging your child.

1. It literally changes their genes.

A study carried out in 2017 showed that cuddling and hugging a child changes their epigenome. The epigenome is the system that controls access to the body’s genes, and directs the human genome. Over time, when the epigenome develops the way it should, there is less of a gap between actual age and epigenetic age. The larger the gap between these two things, the more likely they are to end up with health conditions later on.

2. Hugs release oxytocin.

Oxytocin is known as the love hormone, but it’s extremely important for children, because it bonds them to their parents. Additionally, oxytocin helps them to have trust, and is also a regulatory hormone that keeps the body regulated.

3. They will have less stress later in life.

In a 30-year study, scientists observed parents and their interactions with their children in their earlier years. 30 years later, the same scientists observed how the children had turned out. The ones who were hugged more had greater emotional health and much less stress as adults.

4. Hugs shape your child’s happiness.

Not only do hugs alleviate stress in later age, they also help to make your child happier now. Hugs are extremely calming, and assure your child that they are loved, and secure. For children, feeling loved and feeling secure as just as much their needs as a healthy meal in their tummy and proper rest.

5. Hugs change their brain.

Studies show that babies who are hugged more have better brain development. According to researcher Emily Mudd, We know that even from the moment we’re born, that touch, physical touch, attention, and hugs, are so very important for both nervous system regulation, and brain development,” and continuing, she explains, “From the moment we’re born ― we talk about kangaroo care and the importance of skin-to-skin contact and that really continues through childhood.”

6. Hugs reduce their childhood fears.

Other studies have shown that hugs help to ease our fears, and especially ease the fears of children who are upset. For children, upon the moment they enter the world, they need reassurance from their parents in order to feel a stable presence in the world. And this is why hugs are so extremely important to them.

7. Children who are hugged more are smarter.

When children are hugged more, they actually end up smarter. Part of the brain development that children undergo involves being held. One study that looked at orphanage children found that when children were held for at least 20 minutes each day for 10 weeks, they had higher assessment scores.

8. Hugs make children healthier.

And while there are a myriad of brain benefits for hugging, let us not forget about health. Oxytocin also helps the immune system, which is fundamental to health and disease prevention.