Hugging your kids to make up for lost time

JAKARTA - Jakarta's frenzied life with its insane traffic and long office hours means many parents in the city have little face-to-face time with their children.

Experts, however, say that for those with young children, the solution is simple: hugging. They say a warm hug is more effective in relaying affection than calling your children several times during the day.

Indriyani, who works in a private hospital, said she would leave her home in Karawaci, Tangerang, early in the morning and arrived back at around 7 p.m., giving her only a few hours before bedtime to communicate with her two daughters.

"My daughters and I usually chat while lying on my bed for half an hour or so. The younger one, a third grader, likes to give me a little massage when she thinks I look unwell," she told The Jakarta Post over the phone on Thursday.

She said in the past, finding enough time to spend with her children was more difficult because she had to bring home her office work, which kept her busy even though she was at home.

Reni, a journalist, said it was hard to find free time to interact with her only son when he was still young because he would go to school early in the morning, while she would return home in the evening. Somehow, the two managed to settle the time issue.

"Our time to be together was late at night. My son would wait for me until I came home. After he grew up, he did not need that much time to be together with me," she said.

Parents working in Jakarta often share similar challenges to Indriyani and Reni, who both spend most of their day at work.

However, experts believe that children who can get brief but quality time to share affection with their parents benefit more than those who receive little warmth despite the abundant presence of their parents.

Anna Surti Ariani, a children and family psychologist, said daily warm interaction between parents and their children nurtured attachment, a basic foundation for self confidence in children.

A sense of self confidence in children is essential in building independence, socialization skills, healthy emotions and self control.

"[The result of] attachment or intimacy is comfort and a feeling of security in children with their environment. Children who feel insecure are likely to be more whiny and agitated when their parents have to leave them," she said.

She said teenagers who lacked attachment could become moody or develop behavioural issues. Meanwhile, a lack of attachment in babies can be seen in their behaviour when they are separated and reunited with their parents. A baby who is sad upon being separated from his parents but which quickly regains his cheerfulness shows a good attachment to his parents.

Hugging, Anna says, is an important element during the baby phase because it keeps them from a sense of deprivation from hugs later when they become teenagers.

She says every family should find their own best method of communication because there is no standard way. They have to decide the best time and location to chat and the kind of physical contact with which their children are comfortable.

She added that although urban parents could save time by simply calling their children, they still needed to build physical interaction with them. Communication via the phone does not work well for kids under seven years of age.

"Children under seven years of age need something very tangible, something they can touch, feel and kiss because they don't have the ability to picture what they hear. For example, they might not be able to imagine their mom working in her office when she tells them on the phone that she is still at work," she said.