Learning to nurture your children starts early, and is a wonderful, long-term occupation.

In my lifelong quest to nurture my children I once read Steve Biddulph’s book Raising Boys.  In it, I found out about the importance of giving hugs to my sons. I learned that appropriate physical touch is something young boys often crave – and miss out on. It’s good to keep the hugs coming, especially as they grow into young men. I was already pretty good at hugging my boys. And I was also very aware of the “sissy” nature of hugging and kissing, and the potential of teasing from peers. So once they began school, I kept hugs for more private moments.

However, reading Biddulph’s book raised my awareness as I considered my girls. I realised that my 10-year-old, at the time, received very little physical touch from me. So, one day I hugged her briefly while we were in the kitchen at breakfast time. And she froze!

But I persisted. And over the weeks, gradually, she began to return my hugs with enthusiasm. Now as an adult, she is a great hugger, and very affectionate with many people, young and old.

Hugs are Important!

As I read up about hugging lately, it occurred to me it was a good thing I pushed through the awkwardness, and kept on hugging her. Here’s why . . .

Hugs are powerful, and they are free . . . Amazingly, hugs can even keep you healthier!

The US News website states, “In a 2015 study involving 404 healthy adults, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University examined the effects of perceived social support and the receipt of hugs on the participants’ susceptibility to developing the common cold after being exposed to the virus. People who perceived greater social support were less likely to come down with a cold, and the researchers calculated that the stress-buffering effects of hugging explained 32 percent of that beneficial effect. Even among those who got a cold, those who felt greater social support and received more frequent hugs had less severe symptoms.”

Hugs are powerful, and they are free. They are instant stress-relievers, and create smiles. An amazingly, as this research shows, hugs can even keep you healthier!

Increased Brainpower

Human touch is a powerful thing. Studies of children brought up in Romanian and Russian orphanages last century reveal the power of touch, or more accurately, the lack of touch. These poor children, while having their basic physical needs provided, were left in cribs for weeks at a time, starved of physical human contact.

In fact, the study found that without physical nurture, children’s brains experience permanent and negative alterations. Research indicates that brain size can increase by up to 10% if children have more nurturing mothers. That’s quite significant really. If you could make sure your child has a bigger brain, and more brainpower, would you make sure you did something about it?

Now there’s even more research available showing that the more physical affection babies receive the smarter they will become! Wow. That’s good to know. The whole nurturing thing is incredibly foundational then.

Nurture. That’s what we mothers do.

Usually, our instincts help us provide that nurturing element to our kids’ lives. It’s often unappreciated, but it’s a critical, aspect of our mothering, and their development. Here are some things you can do to ensure your kids receive the nurture needed to grow and develop well . . .

1. HUGS

Of course . . . hugging is so important! As explained above, the evidence stacks up scientifically, medically and emotionally that hugs are critical for good nurturing.

We are great at doing physical touch with babies. But it can easily become less important for us, as babies become toddlers, toddlers start school, and suddenly they are pre-teens! Physical touch is not less important for them though, even if they are older. It’s up to us mothers to remember to include healthy and appropriate physical touch in our daily acts of love and care. Remember to include hugs in daily life for children of any age.

2. LISTEN

It’s easy to let those little voices whizz past our ears and not take the words in. But listening properly is a good way to ensure a child knows he or she is loved and valued. In fact, it’s not just about young children. Intentionally listening to your teens, and adult, offspring makes them aware you care about them, and you acknowledge issues important to them. You are a primary relationship for them. It’s your job to invest in that.

One thing to note: Listening usually means not talking! This sounds obvious, but it can be surprising how much you talk, instead of listen. Before you know it you’re off topic, the original message is lost, and the speaker’s value deflates like a failed sponge. Instead, concentrate on the speaker, stop talking and make eye-contact when listening to someone. It makes all the difference.

3. NOTICE FEELINGS

Have you ever felt as though you were invisible? As if everything you say or do is not worth a mention? It can be pretty disheartening. If you dismiss a child’s feelings as trivial or not worth listening to, they do not feel valued. On the other hand, it’s good to notice their feelings, and take the time to acknowledge them. Even if your child feels sad or disappointed, at least he or she knows a burden is shared. And that’s a much less lonely place to be.

4. RESPECT INDIVIDUALITY

Did you ever feel like you were in an older sibling’s shadow? My two older sisters are brilliant musicians, and I always felt an expectation that I would be too. Perhaps that’s one reason I finished school with straight Science/Math. At least then there was no way of comparing! After that, I moved onto an Applied Science degree, and I didn’t go into teaching, like the rest of my sisters.  It’s important to to love and value your children as individuals. Make time to see their differences, and encourage them to take their own paths which may, or may not, follow the family line.

5. WALK ALONGSIDE

As children grow from cute babies into magnificent adults, your job is to walk beside them. First of all, showing them what to do and how to behave. Then doing it with them. Then letting them do it own their own. Each new task has its complexities, and is appropriate at different times of life. Your children learn to talk from you, to walk, to eat on their own, get dressed, tie shoelaces, all the way up to driving a car, and leaving home to live on their own.

Without doubt, it goes beyond these physical things. Your children also learn about morals, beliefs, ethics and standards from you. It’s amazing how much they pick up, even from a very early age. So be aware. If you have habits you do not really like, they are watching! Not only do you walk alongside them, but they walk alongside you.

Never underestimate the importance of what you are doing as a mother.

Nurture

It’s so important to nurture your children. In fact, it’s critical to their solid development, and long-term success in the world. Never underestimate the importance of what you are doing as a mother. Your child cannot grow into a functional and caring adult without you, and your powerful gift of nurturing.

What are some special ways you like to nurture your children?