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Hug It Out Today

July 18, 2011

NEW YORK - Today is "Global Hug Your Kids Day." Michelle Nichols, a former Businessweek magazine columnist, started Global Hug Your Kids Day on the 10th anniversary of the death of her 8-year-old son, Mark, just 11 days after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. She does not want anyone faced with a similar loss to regret not having hugged their child enough.

Moreover, Nichols is convinced that hugs can strengthen kids - and families.

"Life is tough out there, both for the parents and for the kids. Hugs are a physical way of putting your love into action."

Childrens' advocates say the brunt of the current economic and budget difficulties facing the U.S. is being borne more often by children. They say kids need not only hugs, but better policy decisions that show the community cares for them, too.

Sarah Walzer, CEO of the New York-based Parent-Child Home Program, likes the idea of Global Hug Your Kids Day, but says policymakers need to embrace kids in more ways than one.

"Probably everybody in our government at every level needs to be thinking a little bit more about the children in this country and the children who need to be hugged. Because, unfortunately, all of the budget crises at every level of government are really harming children."

Nichols says it's easy to observe the day, but harder to do it every day, and her organization has a website with a "30-Day Hug Challenge" as a motivator. Here's her technique:

"Take that kid and give him a big ol' hug. Tell him, 'I love you! And you matter to me! And you rock my world. I want you to know no matter what else happens today, you matter to me!'"

Nichols says her nonprofit organization changed its name last year from "National" to "Global" Hug Your Kids Day because she sees it as a kind of peace movement.

"This message of hugging your kids, when you think about it, should be on a global scale, because people of every country - even Afghanistan and Africa and China, places of conflict or places that we don't really understand - they love their kids just as deeply as we here in America do."

Parents are also urged to hug their spouse or partner on Global Hug Your Kids Day.

More information is available at www.HugYourKidsToday.com and www.30DayHugChallenge.com.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY