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Kids Under Pressure: The Stress-Alleviating Power of a Parent’s Hug

LEHI, Utah — This week KSL TV is looking at the many ways our kids are under pressure — with school, technology, and social stresses.

But what if we told you there is something free you could start doing right now that could improve their lives?

When Carmen Herbert’s boys get home from school the first thing she does is hug them for about 8 seconds.

“Our kids just want us more than anything, and they want to feel loved by us,” Herbert said.

It was last year this busy mom of four boys learned about the 8 second hug… 8 times a day.

She attended a presentation by Dr. Christy Kane that focused on counteracting technology through human connection.

“She said ‘I want you to turn to the person next to you, give them a hug for eight seconds.’ And luckily mine was a girl, another woman, we turned to each other and we were like ‘okay, let’s hug’ and everyone is kid of laughing,” Herbert said. “And there’s like this nervous laughter and we counted ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8’ and then the energy in the room after that was amazing…. and she said ‘do you feel this? This is called human connection.'”

“We need to have more oxytocin in our brain and oxytocin is a bonding chemical. So the longer you hold the more you bond,” Dr. Kane, a licensed clinical mental health counselor explained.

Dr. Kane has spent years researching the impact of electronic devices on our brains, she said the longer a child is looking at a screen, the more their brain produces dopamine. Another dopamine producer? Drugs.

“So it’s not when we get the electronic, it’s not when we get the facebook post or snapchat — it’s when we anticipate it, and that anticipatory process creates the addiction issues,” Dr. Kane said.

She said children often show aggression when they’ve been exposed to a screen for too long, that’s the dopamine built up. That’s why it’s important to set age limits, time limits and find ways to bring the oxytocin back in.

“If you’re going to use your cell phone an hour a day then spend 30 minutes in a tactile activity,” Dr. Kane said. “Go outside and go for a run, spend an hour in nature.”

Or you could give a hug.

While it may be difficult to hug a teenager for eight seconds, but Dr. Kane said it can do the trick.

“Everybody says it’s so long. I’ll have people say ‘Dr. Kane, do you know how long 8 seconds is?’ and I’m like really? I’m not even asking for a minute,” Dr. Kane said.

Herbert told us she was quite surprised at the reaction she first got from her 4 boys.

“She said ‘don’t let go until they do’ and so I kept holding him and he kept counting and he counted to 100. And then my next boy counted to 100… and my next boy 100 seconds,” Herbert said. “We’ve been happier as a family and I found that my boys have opened up to me more because they feel safe, they feel like I’m a safe place for them.”


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