Four hugs. That’s how many hugs experts suggest we need daily just to survive. 12 hugs to grow. But try telling that to my teen boy.
While I still get a rare hug in once in and while, my not-so-little boy will rarely agree to this quota anymore. Once upon a time he did. Once upon a time, I would wrap him in cuddles all day long. He would snuggle deeper and deeper into my arms and refuse to let go. He would cling to my legs or attach himself to my back and he wouldn’t squirm away or tell me I’m a weirdo.
Why four hugs a day?
This is the suggestion put forth by family therapist, Virginia Satir, who said that human beings need four hugs a day to survive. She went on further to include that eight hugs would help us maintain and twelve hugs daily would allow us to grow.
I’m not sure if death by lack of hugs is actually a thing, but I think her point is that humans need affection, even 14-year-old humans who think otherwise.
My 14-year-old isn’t the most unaffectionate child in the world. He still lets him wrap him in bear hugs sometimes and, the other day, I actually got a cuddle on the couch that lasted at least 15 minutes. But in between these very rare moments of cuddles with my teen, I’ve uncovered a few tricks to still give him his daily quota for affection and physical attention, but without deliberately going in for a hug.
If you’ve got a teen who isn’t super keen on cuddles and hugs anymore, these little tricks may come in handy.
Ways to Still Show Physical Affection to your Teen Boy When they Get too Old for Hugs
The sneaky touch tactics
1. Rub their feet. This is my nightly go-to with my son. He requests a foot rub almost every night on the couch and I happily oblige, as long as it’s after his shower.
2. Tickle (or draw) on their back. Another one that he might not hate. My son enjoys back tickles or when I write messages on his back and he tries to determine what I’ve written.
3. The shoulder rub. This is a drive-by move for me meaning I will stand behind him when he’s sitting down and rub his shoulders for a brief moment. Sometimes I’ll lean in for a backward hug.
4. The wrestle. Teen boys love to play fight so, if your body can handle it, they may be up for a bit of play fighting on the lounge or on the trampoline. My teen will still get on the trampoline with me and try to take me down. Which he always does.
5. The high-five. Teens are never too old for high-fives!
6. The in-the-car squeeze. Seatbelt on, they can’t get away too quickly! I usually just go for a quick arm squeeze or a shoulder hug in these moments.
7. The photo. My teen boy hates photos but he will begrudgingly pose for one if needed. And what better chance to bring him in close than when snapping a pic?
The less obvious ways to show them affection
8. Play any game with them. Whatever they like. This could be attempting to take on a mission in Call of Duty (and failing horribly) or kicking the soccer ball with them in the backyard. Practice your golf swing with him, play a game of handball in the garage with him or play a board game with him. I find the less “set-up” required, the better.
9. Swim together. By far one of the best ways to have fun and connect with your teen is to add water. You’re never too old for some competitive pool games or a snorkle together.
10. Let them teach you something new. Not a traditional “affection” tactic, but a good one nonetheless. Sow interest in something your teen loves and let him teach you all about it. How to beat a level at a video game, how to do a move in soccer (which I actually taught him years ago but I’ll pretend I didn’t), how to do a wheelie on a bike. Watching him and listening to him not only boosts his affection for the day but also his self-confidence.
11. Hand over a hug (or five) to the siblings. My son isn’t super keen on my hugs because, as explained above, I’m a “weirdo” so I delegate his 12 hugs a day for growth to his little sister who he’s not against hugging.
Bonus 12. Just hug him. Chase him around the house, pin him to a bed and snuggle the sh*t outta him. Chances are, he’ll squirm, he’ll laugh, he’ll try to escape your big mumma bear hug, and he’ll tell you you’re a weirdo.
But didn’t you know? Weirdo hugs are the best hugs of all.