By Jennifer Chung, Kinsights.com
As parents, we are responsible for teaching kids how to be affectionate, at the same time we need to keep them safe. Kids often use intuition as a gauge to determine who they like or don’t like. Parents need to pay attention to their kids’ reaction when meeting new adults and discern how to handle situations when kids don’t feel comfortable showing or receiving affection among family and friends.
First and foremost, kids need to know they are in control of their own bodies. Forcing kids to hug or kiss people they don’t want to leaves them vulnerable. Most abusers are people they know, so this is a dangerous habit to instill in young kids. It is important to teach kids that they are allowed to have their own physical space and comfort zone.
This does not, however, imply they should be rude or disrespectful to relatives they don’t see often. Instead of a kiss or a hug, start out by waving hello, giving a high five or shaking hands as a non-threatening greeting. Hopefully with time, the child will warm up to great grandma before the end of the trip and willingly offer a hug or kiss goodbye.
If your child refuses to give hugs or kisses to friends or relatives, simply explain your family policy on touching and personal space. Clarify that by allowing the child to initiate affection when he is comfortable means it is truly genuine and not just an obedient act on a request from an adult. Empowering a child to have control over his body builds confidence and healthy self-esteem.
When it comes to saying goodbye, if the child is still not comfortable, have them blow a kiss or wave goodbye. You may even create a special goodbye handshake for instances like these. Always aim for your child to be respectful in moments like these as it is easy for relatives to have hurt feelings. Reiterate that your child isn’t comfortable hugging or kissing people he is not familiar with and not to take it personally.
To avoid awkward encounters with new adults, take time to prep your kids for situations where they will be meeting new people so they are not taken by surprise. Let them know the expectation of hugs or kisses hello and goodbye and let them know they are in control of who they kiss or hug, however, they need to be willing to offer another form of greeting like shaking hands, a high five or blowing kisses. If the child is old enough to speak, saying, “Hello, nice to meet you” is always appropriate.
About Jennifer Chung & Kinsights:
Jennifer Chung is a parenting expert and co-founder of Kinsights.com: part parenting community, part online health record. Kinsights provides parents with a safe place to seek answers to their questions while also helping them track their child’s health information. Organize your child’s growth and developmental milestones, immunizations, medications, allergies, and more. Connect with Kinsights at https://kinsights.com to learn more and sign-up! You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter (@kinsights).