Don’t Force the Hug: Let Kids Show Affection on Their Own Terms
It’s a scenario we’re all familiar with: someone is leaving the house and you call your child to come and say goodbye. “Give Aunt Heather a hug,” you order. Your child hesitates, clearly not wanting to, but you push them to do it (either verbally or literally). If they refuse further you’re embarrassed and feel like they’re being rude. Aunt Heather is embarrassed because she doesn’t really care if she gets a hug, but now it’s getting awkward. Eventually you make your child hug her. She leaves and you promptly forget the whole thing ever happened until next time.
You’re probably thinking, “It’s only a hug! Who cares?” But teaching a child that they can show affection on his/her terms is one of the tools parents can use to help protect their children from sexual abuse.
Think of the messages you’re sending by this simple act of forcing your child to give affection when he or she clearly doesn’t want to do so. You’re telling them that when an adult wants a hug or kiss they are required to give it to them, even if they are uncomfortable. If you allow them to show affection on their own terms, however, you’re teaching them that they own their feelings. You’re helping them realize that you value their feelings. They’re learning that they have the right to say no.
Instead of Forcing the Hug, Try These 5 Tips:
Give your child options
Explain to family and friends
Talk to them about their right to choose
Encourage non-physical affection too
If we force children to show affection even when they’re uncomfortable, we’re encouraging them to ignore their own intuition. This can lead to situations where they’re taken advantage of by others. If we give them the right to choose we allow them to learn when it feels right to show affection and let them know that we value that choice.
Don’t force the hug, let them choose.
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