What is the Huggy Puppy? How can it help children who are afraid at night or who are having trouble sleeping because they were exposed to trauma?
The Huggy Puppy intervention (HPI) was developed by Professor Avi Sadeh as a brief intervention to help young children cope with severe stress situations, such as war-related experiences or natural disasters. The child is encouraged to take care of a needy puppy-dog doll (or stuffed animal). The description here is about the stuffed animal used, but other stuffed animals should work. To start, the child is introduced to a cocker spaniel stuffed animal with long legs and Velcro strips that allow the child to hug and hold the doll in different positions. The child is told that Huggy (the name of the stuffed animal) is a little sad and scared because he is far from home and does not have anyone to take care of him. Then the child is asked if he agrees to be Huggy’s good friend and to take care of him. Once the child agrees, he or she receives the stuffed toy and is given a short demonstration on how to hug it.
The HPI is based on the theoretical and clinical assumptions that giving a child a caregiver role promotes self-esteem, potentially reducing the child’s vulnerability to stress reactions. Plus, by focusing on the puppy’s feelings and on the child’s role as caregiver, the child is likely to shift attention from his or her internal distress. From the perspective of play therapy, it is also assumed that playing with the doll allows the child to project his fears on the doll and to regulate his/her emotions.
If your child is afraid at bedtime or during the night, you can try giving him his very own stuffed animal to take care of during the night. It can help a great deal!