Why Your Teen Needs Hugs (Even If They’re Too Cool to Admit It)

Even Fickle Teens Will Welcome Physical Affection if Given in Small Increments at the Right Time

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: Why Your Teen Needs Hugs (Even If They’re Too Cool to Admit it)

I’m a self-professed hugger. Since my kids were young, I’ve always known that my hugs held tremendous power to calm my kids when they were scared, to ease their fears and bring them comfort, and to remind them that they were truly loved and cherished.

But then, they became teenagers…


Now that my kids are teens, they don’t crave my physical affection nearly as much as they once did. The days of them running to me with open arms like I was gone a year when I left them with the babysitter for 30-minutes to slip out for a quick grocery run are over. Now, their idea of connecting is a quick, “Wassup, mom” and a head nod when they walk in the door after school or a quick fist bump (without eye contact, of course) when I drop them off in the school carpool line.

Maybe it’s because they think they’re too old for hugs. Maybe because they’re suddenly too cool for any outward showing of affection – especially in public. Or, maybe they just don’t think they need it anymore.

Sure, they’re quick to pass out hugs freely with their friends (especially my girls), but so often when I move in for a hug, it’s met with lukewarm enthusiasm at best – a quick pat on the back as if to say, “Sorry mom, that’s all I’ve got for you today,” or sometimes even a “Mom, I’m so not in the mood for this right now.”

Every once in a while, I’ll get lucky and they’ll hug me a little tighter and a little longer than usual. In fact, just the other day when my daughter’s emotions were spiraling, I hugged her and I could actually feel the stress leave her body as she soaked up the safety of my arms.

Even though my kids sometimes run for cover when I move in for a hug (quite literally), I know something they don’t… they need my hugs, they need my physical affection, they need to feel my warmth.

The truth is, far too many teenagers are touch-deprived. They just don’t realize it. 

There will never be an adequate substitute for a mother or father’s hug, so it’s up to us as parents to find creative ways to stay physically connected to our kids.

Teenagers Need Hugs (They Just Don’t Realize It)

According to family therapist, Virginia Satir, everyone (including our teens) need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.” That may seem like a lot of hugs – especially for a fickle, sometimes snarky teen who isn’t keen on being touched.

The good news is, hugs (albeit, not the traditional kind), come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s a tousle of your son’s hair before he leaves for school, a high-five when your daughter scores a goal, a gentle elbow nudge when you share an inside joke, or a back rub when your son plops himself next to you on the couch at 10 o’clock at night – even though our kids are growing up and on the cusp of becoming adults, they silently crave our touch – even though they’re way too cool to admit it.

Of course, it’s important to respect our kid’s desire – or lack of desire – for affection, most teenagers will welcome their parent’s touch when it’s given in small increments at the right time.

Science-Backed Reasons to Give Your Teen a Tight Squeeze

Aside from the sappy, feel-good side of hugging, there is plenty of science-backed evidence supporting the benefits of hugging our teens.

Hugging Can Help You Communicate with Your Teen

The next time you and your teen are on the verge of an argument, you might want to hug it out. According to Healthline, “Most human communication occurs verbally or through facial expressions, but hugging is a very comforting and communicative type of touch.” When tension is high or words fail you, a hug can speak volumes about how you feel about your teen and help disarm the situation, opening the door to more productive communication.

Hugs Can Relieve Your Teen’s Stress (and Yours)

A big, long bear hug – when welcomed by your teen, of course – can make your teen feel calm and more relaxed. That’s because Oxytocin, sometimes called the “cuddle hormone,” is released when we’re hugged. According to Emily and Amelia Nagoski, co-authors of Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle, hugging someone you love for 20-seconds a day is the key to alleviating stress and beating burnout.

Hugs Can Help Your Teen Feel Safe and Secure

The importance of human connection and, particularly, a parent’s gentle touch, can’t be understated. When we wrap our arms around our kids, it can help them feel safe, less alone and secure in a world that’s often far too noisy, confusing and challenging.

Hugs Can Improve Your Teen’s Mood and Lower Depression

Maybe your daughter walked in the door after school feeling irritable, moody or just plain burned out. A good long hug might be just what she needs to improve her mood and even keep depression at bay. Not only can a hug improve your teen’s mood, it holds the power to boost self-esteem by making them feel more accepted, happier and confident.

Hugs Can Help Build Bridges with Our Teens

Nearly every parent of teens would likely agree that there have been times when our relationship with our kids takes a hit. A disagreement, nasty fight or heated argument has a way of eroding our relationship with our kids if we don’t jump in quickly to repair the damage.

Even if you weren’t raised by a physically affectionate parent, you’re not a huge hugger yourself, or it feels awkward hugging your child who now towers over you, a hug (or one of the many abbreviated forms of physical touch) can do wonders to build bridges, improve the connection and help solidify a bond between you and your teen.

While a hug won’t solve all your teen’s problems, it can help relieve some of their stress and tension, improve their overall outlook on life and well-being and fortify your relationship with your teen. So… go and hug your teen today!

If you enjoyed, “Why Your Teen Needs Hugs (Even If They’re Too Cool to Admit It,” check out these other posts:

What Teenagers Really Need From Their Parents

The Rippling Effect of a Mother’s Touch

The Five Powerful Love Languages of Teenagers

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