We all show love in many and different ways


My kid hates hugs. Wait, let me clarify: she hates hugging people. She loves hugging our family dog. I’m so jealous. Jealous of a dog. Oh, and she also hugs her friends. Maybe she just hates hugging her parents. Oh man, this is sounding worse and worse.

There is no particular reason she doesn’t like hugs that we know of. She doesn’t have any sensory sensitivities—frankly if she did it would be easier for me to understand. She touches and interacts with others and us all the time but just doesn’t want to be hugged or snuggled very often. This is a bummer because I love hugs and snuggles and touches. And I want them from her all the time.

There are certainly caveats to hug-hating. She shares space with people and there are many parts of our daily routine during which she is kind of snuggling. Bed time, for example, we lie next to each other under the blankets while we read. About three or four times a month she still sneaks into bed with us and I get a rare, coveted opportunity to spoon her for a few hours. When she gets legitimately hurt (emotionally or physically) she wants and accepts hugs. And, she’s a hand-holder, so I get that on a daily basis. But hugs on demand? Nope.

Since this something I’m bummed about almost every day to some level, I have done a lot of thinking and reflecting on this topic. As a result, I have learned some things.

There are many ways to show love

She gives gifts. So many gifts. She’s constantly drawing pictures, writing notes, and making jewelry for people including me, her dad, her teacher, her friends. Several days a week she brings a friend a gift in her backpack. I know she loves me when she draws me a picture. She’s also incredibly extroverted and values time spent with people. Although this can feel exhausting, I know she loves me because she wants to play with me and talk to me constantly. All. The. Time.

Her body her choice

Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but more and parents are saying this now. Thank goodness. Teaching body sovereignty is a huge, complex conversation, but one small part of it certainly includes if and when your child is expected to hug. Since I believe she gets to make these choices for herself, I respect her choice not to hug – as much as it pains me to do so. I also don’t ask her to hug others.

My feelings are not her responsibility

Through my reflection on this topic, I am self-aware enough to realize that most of the times I request a hug is because it would make ME feel better to GET a hug. It’s a tough connection to realize that essentially, in those cases, I am communicating to my daughter that she ought to play a part in making me feel better. And, that’s just not the case. As much as a hug WOULD make me feel better, that’s not part of her job description, it’s part of mine.

If you have a non-hugger, you’ll get this. If you have a big snuggler on your hands, you won’t. The thing is, we all show love in different ways; once we understand our kids’ natural displays and comfort around touch, we can honor those natural feelings, assure them they are normal, and we’re okay with them. One of the mantras I constantly repeat to my daughter is, “I love you no matter what.” Guess what, that includes when she doesn’t want a hug.