The holidays are a time for families to come together together to celebrate the year and enjoy a big meal and exchange gifts. It’s a time for good food, celebration, and lots of love. It also means that your children are seeing people that they may only see once or twice a year or that they are being introduced to for the first time. This can be a scary and confusing time for kids of all ages. And it can actually lead to some pretty conflicting messages about consent and personal choice.
We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. An aunt gives us a Christmas present and we are told by our parents to go give her a hug or a kiss and say thank you. Or as people are leaving a party, we are told to go give Uncle John a big hug and tell him bye or to go give grandma a big kiss goodbye. Even if we aren’t comfortable with it or like to hand out hugs and kisses, it was expected of us to share that physical affection so as not to offend others.
Once we grew up and became adults we gained the right to consent to any form of physical contact that may be coming our way. We can say no or simply move away. But children, often times, do not get that same right. They are forced to do things even though they may make the child feel uncomfortable simply to make the parents look better or to uphold a social contract. Even today in the era of “me too” and the push for body autonomy and consent we still have a tendency to treat kids differently than we would adults when it comes to family or important figures like religious leaders.
As a parent, I refuse to force my children to show affection through physical contact. I’ve made it a point to stress to my kids that their bodies are their own and that they do not have to dish out physical acts of love and affection just because an aunt or an uncle or even a grandparent expects it. If my child is feeling overwhelmed or uneasy, I want them to know that it is okay to not have to hug someone. This gives my children the opportunity to decide when and how they hand out physical affection and can lead to a healthier understanding of what consent is as adults.
It’s our job as parents to teach our children what a healthy relationship is and that it is perfectly okay to say no when it comes to physical contact. This is a lesson that will take them through adulthood. It’s especially important for our young girls to understand this.
That being said, they don’t have the right to be rude! They can show their appreciation and love for friends, family, and acquaintances through ways that don’t necessarily involve physical contact. High fives, fist bumps, a special handshake, or a sincere thank you with a big smile are all great ways for kids to show love or excitement or to say thank you that don’t involve a physical act.
So this holiday season, just remember, that not all kids want to share that big hug with you and that’s okay. It shouldn’t be seen as disrespectful or taken as an insult. Rather, take the opportunity to form some other special signal between the two of you to show that love and appreciation.
Let me know what you all think about this in the comment section below and don’t forget to hit that subscribe button before you head out.