Christmas is a time for families to come together, reconnect, and have a jolly old time. For some families, it’s the only time they see each other all year. Although for adults, festive catch-ups can be a blast (assuming old family disagreements stay in the past), for children, greeting so many strangers can be overwhelming. Especially when they’re encouraged to hug relatives and family friends, who might feel like strangers.
As reported by Metro UK, Girl Scouts of America have released a reminder to parents in the lead up to Christmas that you shouldn’t be forcing children to hug or kiss relatives.
We’ve all seen it happen, and we might even be the parents pushing it on our children: A relative gifts a child a present, and in response, the child is told to “give your uncle a hug” as a thank you for the gift. Meanwhile, the child is obviously hesitant and unsure.
According to Girls Scouts, herein lies the problem. The organization suggests that telling your child that they owe someone affection in exchange for a gift can set the stage for the child to question whether they “owe” another person any type of physical affection if, for instance, someone buys them dinner, later in life. The bottom line is — it’s never too soon to teach children about respect and consent.
Developmental psychologist, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, speaking for the Girl Scouts of America, explains: “The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children.”
“But the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime, and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older.”
Instead of physical affection, encourage conversation.
Of course, many children may naturally want to hug or kiss family members — and that’s OK. However, if your child is hesitant to show affection to someone they might not see often or know well, then encourage a different type of interaction. Insist on your child saying “hello,” giving a wave, and engaging in a conversation, rather than forcing them into physical contact that will make them feel shy and uncomfortable.
This post was written by Bettina Tyrrell. For more, check out our sister site Now to Love.