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Dr. Grauer's Column - Hug Research

Hug Research 

I was once across the country with a group of middle schoolers. In Washington, D.C. It was the first night, and we were unpacking and getting ready for bed. An eighth grade boy began weeping. He wanted to go home.

“I want to call my mother,” he whispered sadly.
“Why do you want to call your mom?”
“And I want to call my dad,” he cried. “I want to go home.”
“I understand,” I said. “What it is you feel your mom and dad will do you for you?” I probed.
“I just want to see them,” he said. “I want to be with them.”

I could only look at him, study his face, try to drink in his whole, lonely demeanor, and I allowed a moment of silence that was quite lovely until at last he looked up at me and said, “Will you give me a hug?”

I gathered him in my arms and held on for a good while, until I could feel a change, then released. He looked, up smiled shyly, and never said another word about leaving the trip or going home.

Number of times a person craves a hug in a day:  13
Number of seconds the average hug lasts:  3
Number of seconds for a hug to have medical healing properties:  20

Grauer Athletic Director Trevor Olson hugging students at the beginning of the school year - August 2015

Personalized learning used to mean that the teacher saw, taught and treated each student as a unique person in need of a real human connection. Hugs were implicit. 
                
The most official Grauer School Department of Hug Research notes that hugs:

  • Reduce cortisol (cortisol triggers stress, anxiety, and inflammation)
  • Increase BDNF (brain derived neurotropic factor, a protein that helps build neural connections and brain plasticity)
  • Increase oxytocin and dopamine (“the happiness chemicals”)

…even if kids act like they don’t want the hugs!

Want to know what personalized learning means here in 2019? It means: selling schools expensive subscriptions to computerized programs with a general lack of research support. It means serious threats to privacy, and a stifling way of slotting students into addictive screen use. Often as not today, personalized learning means students engaging in screen time on a narrow band of skills. Personalized instruction is no longer pertinent to the integrated and actual learning needs of a complex human being. For that, I’ll take a hug.

Plus, hugs reduce the harmful physical effects of stress and anxiety (now at historical record high levels among teens), including its impact on your blood pressure and heart rate. This makes sense since, as noted, hugging is known to lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol.

Grauer sophomore Isabella hugging a student at Daraja Academy during her expedition to Kenya - September 2018

Now here’s the kicker:  Schools are banning hugs and other physical contact because it is interfering with students' educational experience, they claim—a sign of fearful, hung up times, for sure. The Problem with 'No Hug' Policies in School is this: we all need human contact. We need safe touch, especially our kids. 

Schools that used to tout the slogan “hugs not drugs”, have now banned both. In Oregon, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, and across the land, schools are suspending students from school and penalizing teachers for …hugging. 

At The Grauer School, here is a vision I would propose: The outcome of a great education would be to give great hugs.

Have a warm week, everyone!


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Grauer sophomore Isabella hugging a student at Daraja Academy during her expedition to Kenya - September 2018

Grauer Athletic Director Trevor Olson hugging students at the beginning of the school year - August 2015

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