Did you know the bear hug and goodnight kiss you give your child each day has been scientifically proven to help them cope better with life stressors as adults? Another study has shown that allowing your child to play freely also appears to have a lot to do with wellbeing and moral capacities in adulthood.
We’re all so busy these days as we juggle motherhood, work and oh so much more. But one thing we must try to never forget to do is show regular affection to our children, even our cheeky tweens and teens.
Just a random cuddle or kiss while they’re eating breakfast or doing their homework could make all the difference.
And there’s not just anecdotal evidence to back this up, a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health backs this up.
Mothers of 8-Month-Old Baby’s Rated
Author of the study is Joanna Maselko; she’s an assistant professor of professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University Medical Center.
The findings of the longitudinal suggest that early nurturing and warmth have long-lasting positive effects on mental health well into adulthood.
The study included 482 participants who were part of the US Providence Rhode Island birth cohort of the National Collaborative Perinatal Project.
The quality of their interactions with their mothers at the age of 8 months were objectively rated by a psychologist during routine developmental assessment.
At the end of each session, the psychologist completed an assessment of how well the mother had coped with her child’s developmental tests. They also consider how she had responded to the child’s performance.
The amount of affection and attention she gave to her child was also categorised, with descriptors ranging from “negative” to “extravagant.”
Study authors subsequently followed up with the children at the average age of 34 to assess their mental health, levels of anxiety and hostility, and general levels of distress.
Higher The Warmth, The Less Distress
They found that mothers who were most affectionate at the 8-month assessment were associated with adult offspring who showed significantly lower levels of distress, anxiety and hostility.
The strongest association was with the anxiety subscale. This pattern was seen across all the various elements: the higher the mother’s warmth, the lower the adult’s distress.
“High levels of maternal affection are likely to facilitate secure attachments and bonding,” the authors say.
“This not only lowers distress, but may also enable a child to develop effective life, social, and coping skills, which will stand them in good stead as adults.”
Interestingly, researchers at the University of Notre Dame in the US wrote a journal article saying a similar thing.
Professor of psychology Darcia Narvaez and colleagues Lijuan Wang and Ying Cheng, associate professors of psychology, found that parent touch, play and support in childhood was vital to wellbeing as an adult.
As part of the study adults were asked to reflect on their childhoods and consider:
- How much did they receive physical affection?
- Did they play freely outside and inside?
- Did they do things as a family inside and outside the home?
- Were they made to feel supported?
Affection Parents Create Compassionate Kids
They found that adults who report receiving more support in their childhoods display less depression and anxiety, as well as a greater ability to take the perspective of others and an orientation toward compassion.
Adults who report less of these parenting practices in their childhood have poorer mental health, more distress in social situations and are less able to take another’s point of view.
“Our research shows that when we don’t provide children with what they evolved to need, they turn into adults with decreased social and moral capacities,” Prof Narvaez says.
“With toxic stress in childhood, the good stuff doesn’t get a chance to grow and you become stress reactive. It’s hard to be compassionate when you are focused on yourself.
“We can see adults all around us who were traumatised or undercared for at critical times.”
5 Ways You Can Be More Affectionate
Not all of us are touchy feely type people, and that’s okay. So here are 5 ways you can bring more affection into your family’s day.
1. If you have a newborn or baby, try and hold, touch or rock them in your arms as much as possible. Giving baby a bath or a massage is a great way to have skin-to-skin contact.
2. Make sure that before you drop kids at school or daycare you give them a hug. Also do this at bedtime or when you see them after school. Ensure hugging is part of your daily routine.
3. If being affectionate doesn’t come naturally, set a reminder on your Fitbit to remind yourself to randomly give your child a hug or kiss.
4. When disciplining your child, give them a hug as reassurance at the end. Or you could put your hand on their shoulder, gently to show you still love them despite their behaviour.
5. Another way you can get some one-on-one time with your children is to get busy in the kitchen.
We don’t suggest you put them to work without you, but sharing special moments making pancakes for breakfast or packing school lunches.
While we’re on the subject of the dreaded school lunch. If you want some fresh ideas then the Healthy Mummy’s Healthy Kids Lunch Boxes eBook!
This eBook contains 100 great recipes and ideas to help fill those boxes full of goodness that your kids will LOVE!
The recipes are quick and easy to make and they often use leftovers to also save you time and money.