When it hurts to hug

Originally appeared on spirituality.com

“Be sure to hug the children goodnight!” the headmistress told me on my first day of work. Sounded like a wonderful idea. But within a day or two I learned how hard it would be to put into practice.

I’d just finished graduate study and started work in a residential school for children. Most of the kids, who ranged in age from 5 to 13, were there because they had difficulties living with their own families.

The challenges quickly became obvious. William arrived with a bald spot on his head because his dad had grabbed him by his hair in anger and pulled out a fistful. Then there was Joan, an only child who alternated between feeling deep rage toward her mother and crying over her for days.

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