How do you hug your kids? And how long?
Not long ago, I gained a new insight about how I show love to my children. My good friend Mike and I were working together, and my son Tim, who was 16 at the time, came into the office. Mike greeted Tim with a big hug. To my surprise—and Tim’s, I’m sure—it wasn’t just a quick hug. It lasted a few seconds and I believe it really encouraged my son.
Now, we all know that teenagers want more space, not less, right? But in that moment I decided I was going to show my love by giving Tim and my other children longer embraces. And the next time I hugged Tim, I held on until I sensed he was ready to release his grip. It was one of the longer hugs ever with one of my kids and it was great!
And then I started to notice that sometimes Tim would come and bump up against me, like he was looking for some kind of contact. And that’s when I developed the 10-second hug. I heartily recommend it.
Like you, I often reflect on my role as a father and the best way to show love to my children. My own father did the best he could, but he didn’t initiate hugs or verbalize his love. As a father, I was determined to be different.
I recall one video about fathering. The producers interviewed children about their good or bad relationships with their fathers. One of the most striking interviews involves a teenage girl who breaks down in tears as she answers the questions. The last question they ask her is, “What one piece of advice would you give fathers?” She fights back her tears and gathers herself, then she says, “Show your love.”
Is it that simple? Sometimes I think it is. I know many dads would greatly improve their connections with their children if they could follow that advice—really live it out with their kids.
Dads, we all have different ways of showing our children that we love them. I encourage you to be bold in this area. Take some risks! And you can start today with a 10-second hug.
George Williams is a marriage and family therapist and a former staff member of the National Center for Fathering.