Hi, I'm Dr. Beth Onufrak!

Are your hugs pushed away?

published20 days ago
2 min read


How to Love On Kids Who Hate Hugs

Hi there!

Last week I recommended a 10-Second Hug. It's great for closeness and "co-regulation." But boatloads of kids don't like to be hugged. This can be so painful! You just want to grab and snuggle your child.

Here are some reasons why kids resist hugs, whether or not to push it ... and non-hugging ways to share closeness.

Why some kids resist hugs.

The reasons are many, but not always clear.

Sensory issues

You may have no trouble with textures of clothing and foods and the feeling of touch. But your child might.

Although their reactions may be seem strange and extreme, they aren't making it up.

Spectrum stuff

Lots of children on the Autism spectrum love hugs -- and lots don't. It's very individual. Many desire affectionate contact while others recoil from touch. It's not you, it's their nervous systems.


Trauma can leave children averse to touch.

Past abuse (experienced or witnessed) and traumatic events may leave kids fearful of physical contact.

They may instinctively pull away, even from people who are totally safe. It's not you, its the past.

Past strain

Anger and hurt from past "bad days" can linger in a child's heart.

You may sense this and try to repair the wounds with hugs. But you can tell when that gesture is not welcome.

Kids may resist hugs for reasons that are unclear, but real.

Pushing hugs is not likely to work.

You may feel the urge to go ahead and hug, hoping your love will melt the ice. Sure, this can succeed. I've heard numerous tales of moving breakthrough moments.

But pushing against your child's signals can backfire. The walls can go up even higher than before.

Just recall a time someone tried to hug you when you weren't ready.

Pushing against your child's signals can backfire.

What you can do instead.

Meet them where they are.

Accept whatever level of physical closeness they allow. Backing up to you. Just touching shoulders. Hugging for a moment before dashing away.

Have parent-child special time.

Join your child in play where you follow rather than lead, observe rather than teach.

It goes by many names. My style is called Playing Like a FAN. This links hearts and may lead to more physical closeness.

Draw pictures of yourselves together.

Drawing and coloring is a connecting activity, without the pressure of touch.

Hug their stuffed animals.

I learned long ago ... affection given to a child's favorite stuffed animal goes straight into their hearts. This was not in my grad school texts, but it is real science!

Meet 'em where they are.

Playing Like a FAN is my formula for parent-child play. Be a Fascinated, Admiring Noticer.

It's not just play, it's attachment.

Learn more in this segment from Cool the Tantrums, Feel the Peace.

See you next week!

And remember ... Looking through your child's eyes changes everything.


Dr. Beth

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