It’s a very well-known fact that hormones in the body can create certain emotions and reactions that will govern how people treat one another. Testosterone is typically associated with aggression, while its opposing antagonist, oxytocin, grants a calmer, more laid back feeling that allows people to experience a much more relaxed and calmer state of mind. Very often oxytocin is produced by physical nearness and/or touching that can produce such a calming effect.
How Physical Affection Creates Empathy
Oxytocin is quite naturally known as the “cuddle” hormone as it can grant warm and compassionate feelings within a person when they see something cute, touching, or in some way nurturing. It can be triggered with a soft touch or a firm, comforting presence that makes the recipient feel good inside. In other words, it is the warm, fuzzy feeling one gets when someone decides to show affection. In stark contrast to testosterone and its more aggressive effects, oxytocin is a key component to showing empathy to others.
This is very important in the life of a child considering that during their many developmental stages it is necessary to show children the balance between being strong and independent and still remain empathetic and caring for others. Too much testosterone can cause a child to become overly aggressive and even antisocial, whereas an increase in oxytocin levels can instill a calm and more compassionate attitude.
A gentle touch, a hug, or even just physical nearness can go a long way towards teaching children the importance of empathy. This allows them to better understand the need for closeness and to seek out the feeling that is invoked when they are close to another person. It also helps to show by example how physical affection can bring people closer together. Parents should feel free to be affectionate around their children, to show them that it is okay to touch and hug in an appropriate manner so as to show how much they care for one another.
Oxytocin levels do not last terribly long. In fact, it is believed that they last for only a matter of minutes before the effect wears off. What is beneficial however is that once a child feels this they will actively seek out affection in later instances. What is important at that juncture is to show the child that their feeling is quite normal, and to make them understand how to turn this feeling into a positive emotion towards others.