Once or twice a week I take my son to a wonderful early learning program offered by the schools in our county. I particularly admire his teacher, who is clearly gifted with young children. She’s caring, patient, experienced and knowledgeable. Her communication with the parents is helpful and clear.
In short, I’m grateful for her, and I trust her.
So, when she took the time twice recently to present some challenging but necessary information, I took careful note of what she shared. I’m so grateful for it:
With the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons upon us, there will be an increase in visiting with family and friends. During this time, take note of your children’s comfort level with all the hugging and kissing going on with loved ones. Not all children are comfortable with giving Aunt Sally a hug or kiss good-bye or even sitting on Santa’s lap.
And that’s okay!
It is safer for your child to know they have the choice of whether or not to give and receive physical affection from others. Ask your child if she would like to give Aunt Sally a hug good-bye. If she says no, encourage her to simply say to Aunt Sally, “Thank you for having us over.”
A smile and a wave, a high-five, etc. will also do. Basic good manners can still convey affection and appreciation. Preparing your children before arriving, and even practicing these exchanges can help.
Because forcing children to be affectionate toward others or to receive the physical affection from others teaches them that others have control over their bodies.
However, giving a child a choice empowers them with a healthy sense of control over their own body. It is important that children know they are allowed to have boundaries–even with loved ones. Should a person ever attempt an inappropriate form of touching, your child will be better equipped to say no and potentially tell you.
A sobering thought: most abusers are people that children know, love, or trust. I hope that abuse is never a reality for your child–but the fact remains that, should abuse occur, you may be forcing your child to show affection to a person who has abused them.
I know that is heavy, but remember that you hold more power than you may realize. Simply giving your child a choice increases your child’s safety. (<==Click to tweet.)
I’m preaching to myself here too. Sometimes my little guy likes to snuggle, and sometimes he doesn’t. It’s hard when I want to smother him with smooches, and he says no. I try to respect that and not play the “I’m the mommy, so you have to” card.
Adults, please don’t take it personally if a child isn’t comfortable hugging and kissing you. Some children are just shy. You give them a tremendous gift of love and respect when you allow them to develop a comfort level with showing affection in their own timing.
I know it’s not easy, but you are kind and brave when you put a child’s interests first this way. You are loving them well, and you are paying attention to an issue that is both difficult and important.
So, armed with this knowledge, go out and celebrate this season.
~I am not an expert. I am just a mom with a history of childhood sexual abuse, who has a passion for protecting children and helping people heal from abuse. The thoughts expressed above are a collection of my own thoughts, ideas I’ve read about, and recommendations by professionals.
Subscribe to receive new posts by email. It’s free!
Scroll over any image to Pin It.