It’s the holidays!
Family and friends have traveled from far and wide to come see you and your children.
They are so excited to see how much your little ones have grown and reach out for a hug while your child recoils as if they are about to catch the plague.
Mortified, you push your child forward with a stern, “Don”t be rude! Hug grandma. She came all the way across the country to see you!”
Stiff armed your child stands in Grandma’s embrace. You’re angry. You’re pissed. You’re thinking of ways to punish your child once you finally have a private moment as you apologize profusely saying, “I don’t know what’s gotten into her!”
But, your child is actually doing something that should be applauded, not punished. Your child is making a very important choice that will serve them for the rest of their lives, and can even prevent child abuse or becoming a #MeToo statistic.
By making children show affection to another person when they don’t want to, we as parents are teaching them that their personal space doesn’t matter. We are teaching them that the feelings of others should be considered more than their own. We are teaching them that they are not allowed to say no to something that is uncomfortable. We are teaching them that their consent doesn’t matter.
A recent article on GirlScouts.org, points out that girls (and boys) learn from a young age about setting physical boundaries, and about respecting others’ and having theirs be respected.
Teaching children about consent at an early age can make them less likely to be preyed upon by a would be child molester. Teaching children to talk about how to handle their discomfort with other’s advances, no matter how harmless, can help a child learn that they can come to you when someone has been inappropriate with them.
If your child doesn’t feel like giving physical attention to someone else, or you are concerned this may come up, you can help him or her create new ways of greeting or showing appreciation. Air kisses, high fives, pinky shakes, or even just using words and a smile can go along way.
There will be some relatives who will not understand and might even feel slighted. But if they have your child’s best interests at heart, they will understand when you explain that you are teaching your child about body safety and consent, and want to help your child learn that they can still show love and appreciation without using their body.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Please feel free to comment below!