We all want our kids to be happy, smart and well adjusted. It might sound like a tall order, but you already have one of the key tools you need: oxytocin.
Often called the cuddle chemical, the great thing about oxytocin is that you already have a good store. One of the first things your brain does to prepare you for motherhood is to give you an oxytocin surge during the first trimester of pregnancy. Breastfeeding also gets levels on the rise.
Other good news is that the more you give, the more oxytocin you get. Hug your babies, and your brain (and theirs) will be rewarded by a giant surge of oxytocin. Connect with your husband, and you’ll get another boost. Chatting and laughing with a friend fills your tank, and even your yoga workout or run can help you out.
Why is that a good thing? Because oxytocin doesn’t just give you the feels. Research has shown that it has a critical impact on the way our kids grow and develop, too.
Here are 10 ways oxytocin can help you to be a great mom
It can stimulate the brain
According to parentingforbrain.com, kids who receive tactile stimulation (or hugs, in plain English), score higher on developmental assessments.
It promotes kids’ growth
Interestingly, an increase in oxytocin is accompanied by a rise in growth hormones in children.
It keeps kids healthy
Your natural reaction to cuddle a sick child has benefits: oxytocin flicks the immune system’s “on switch”.
It promotes healing
Again, there’s a reason you reach out for your child the moment you realise their fall has resulted in a graze: oxytocin promotes healing by lowering plasma levels.
Stop tantrums, fast!
Turns out there is a magic bullet for ending that tantrum: the oxytocin surge from a hug can help a child regulate their emotions by lowering stress and anxiety.
It boosts resilience
One of the most important lessons we can learn is how to bounce back – and here, again, is where oxytocin’s power to reduce stress is invaluable. When you can see that your child is facing a hard time and battling to deal with the ensuing emotions, don’t hold back on the cuddles.
It also boosts happiness
It’s simple, really: kids who get lots of hugs are generally happier.
It makes children feels more secure
You may have noticed how much closer you feel to your husband emotionally after you’ve been physically intimate. The same goes for your children: a hugging habit can really strengthen your relationship.
It promotes healthy social behaviour
In fact, the hormone is administered to children on the autistic spectrum to reduce symptoms.
It can also reduce cravings
Stop that sugar habit with a hug.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.