Don't Force Your Kids To Hug During Holidays, Girl Scouts of America Warns
The Girl Scouts of America sent an important message to families – parents should not force their children to give hugs to anyone during the holidays.
The blog post to girlscouts.org seems all the more timely and important because of the many allegations against well-known celebrities and politicians.
“Holidays and family get-togethers are a time for yummy food, sweet traditions, funny stories, and lots and lots of love,” the blog read. “But they could, without you even realizing it, also be a time when your daughter gets the wrong idea about consent and physical affection.”
During a recent Facebook Live event, Cook Children’s posted on the #MeToo movement and child sexual abuse, Denise Coover, a trauma-informed specialist and family therapist, made a similar point. While the emphasis of the blog was on girls, Coover said it was important for parents to share the same message with their sons.
“When kids are little we’ve got to be careful to not override children’s instincts to not immediately go and hug people they don’t know,” Coover said. “Sometimes parents will say, “Oh go and give [her] a hug.” Well first of all they don’t know me and they don’t want to give me a hug. We should allow kids to make that decision on who they feel comfortable being close to. Sometimes we override that and say, ‘Oh they are being rude. Well, no they are not. They don’t know me.”
Joy Crabtree, clinic manager of Cook Children’s Psychology Clinic in Southlake, said that especially with the holidays coming up and your kids seeing people they may not normally be familiar or comfortable with, to prep your children in advance before you arrive to the family dinner or gathering.
“So, if they are being pressured for a hug or kiss, they can say, ‘I do high fives instead,’ for example. The more prepared kids feel in advance, the less stress they will feel and more confident, no matter the situation,” Crabtree said.
The blog urged parents to not insist their daughter go give hugs to an aunt or uncle if the child seems hesitant. The concern is that this establishes a precedent for when the child grows up and may “set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affections when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.
The blog points out that these are scary times and that sadly adults do prey on children and “teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, knowing when lines are being crossed, and when to get help.”
The article recommends parents:
- Give your child space to decide when and how to show affection.
- Don’t force your child to give affection.
- Teach her if she doesn’t want to give someone a hug to not be rude, but use words to express how she has missed someone, say “thank you with a smile.”
- Give high fives, fist bumps or air kisses.