Send anyone this way to read along, but for permission to reprint, please contact Gail.
© Gail Underwood Parker

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Focus on Fostering: Un-huggable?

Most children love to be hugged. But, sometimes children who have been through trauma actually shrink from hugs. Here is a strategy for giving them the affection without physical contact and gradually acclimate them to the idea of hugs. Give them a way to receive, give, and even exchange visual or by-proxy "hugs" until they are comfortable with that direct contact. 

Take some pink felt, some stuffing, and a permanent marker. Cut out two matching heart shapes. Write HUGS on one of the hearts. Stitch 3/4 the way around the two hearts, then stuff the heart and sew the opening closed.
If you want to be fancier… use embroidery thread to stitch the word HUGS and stitch around right sides together and then turn the hearts before stuffing to hide the seams inside once you stitch it closed. 

After you explain the stuffed hug to your child leave it for your child  to find... on their pillow at night, next to their lunch bag, at their table place etc. Tell your child that they can either give it back to you directly or can leave it someplace for you to find. 

The next step is to make it more personal and interactive. When you want to give the child a hug, hug the pillow in a gentle, affectionate hug, then hand the “hug” to the child and have him/her copy by giving the pillow a gentle hug. Explain it to the child and then give them their own hug pillow that they can use when they want to give a sign of affection by giving a “hug.”  Eventually most children will graduate from giving stuffed hugs to real hugs and you will have helped them take one more step in healing.

Until you get your stuffed hug ready... try web-searching for images of hugs, print some up, and leave a visual hug to surprise your child on their bed, in their binder,  under their laid-out clothes, etc.  Get creative and have fun with it!

Image credits and thanks to:, and especially...

No comments:

Post a Comment