SEATTLE - 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.
More than that, however, 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."
She has taken the campaign a step further, with a 30-Day Hug Challenge, which she says does not come as naturally to some families as she had expected.
"Everybody intellectually gets 'I want to hug my kids every day. I love my kids.' But when I say, 'Yeah? Can you do it every day for 30 days?', they go, 'Sur...'. They start to say, 'Sure!', then they go, 'Well, wait a second....'"
Children's advocates say there's a serious side to the day, as well, because kids are not immune to stress and worries about the economy and the future. They say children need not only hugs, but better policy decisions that show their communities care for them, too.
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 really don't 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.