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  • Michelle Haskell

ENCOURAGING HUGS. EVEN ON THE HOLIDAYS. //

Here lately, there have been a couple of articles circulating on the topic of children hugging relatives, especially during the holidays. One published byParents.comtitled “Reluctant Hugs: Why You Shouldn’t Force Kids to Show Physical Affection”, and another from Girl Scouts titled “Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays.” among a few others I’ve seen.


When I first read these, I completely agreed. I thought to myself… of course not, my daughter doesn’t owe anyone a hug – and truth be told, she doesn’t. However, the more and more I’ve been around family and friends since reading these articles, the more and more I disagree.


My daughter does owe certain people hugs, and hugging certain people is okay.


After reading these articles, I began noticing when we enter or leave the homes of family and friends, I would make my daughter, who is 2 years old, hug her relatives and friends as a way of saying hello or good-bye prior to leaving.


After much self-deliberation on if my actions of encouraging such hugs was appropriate behavior or not, I have come to the conclusion – I will always encourage my children to hug their relatives, especially on holidays, especially when greeting them at door, especially when saying good-bye, especially when they may need one. Hugging is a completely acceptable type of behavior in our family and will continue to be encouraged.


It is my job to teach my daughter about physical affection, about consent, and knowing when lines are being crossed, and equally so, my son as well. I completely understand there are predators around us, but to think a simple innocent hug from a toddler to a family member is being turned into oversexualized behavior is absurd to me.


By encouraging hugs to family and friends, I’m teaching my daughter about the good kind of touch and the good kind of people – she’s learning who she can trust and who is safe. Therefore, when she is confronted with an uncomfortable situation, she knows where she can go to be protected and away from harm. Even at the age of 2, she already chooses to give certain people hugs – for example her teachers at school. I have not enforced such behavior; however, she has learned by previous examples - her teachers are protectors, good people, and are safe to hug.


In my family, hugging each other, especially when saying good-bye, is a sign of love, kindness, respect, gratitude, and appreciation. It’s a way of thanking them for their time, welcoming us into their home, perhaps a meal, or even a gift. It’s a way of showing compassion for them, well-wishes, and knowing they will be in our thoughts and prayers until we see them again. It’s a way of saying good-bye – my goodness, what if this hug in question was the last memory I had with this person? I’d hate knowing I didn’t hug them or encourage my child to do so because I was afraid of the lesson I was teaching them about inappropriate physical attention and unwanted touching.


Also, it should be noted as my daughter’s mother – I don’t surround myself, and more importantly her, with “bad” people, or around people who don’t know her, especially on the holidays. I would not put my daughter in a situation at the age of 2 where consent should be an issue, nor where hugging someone would be deemed inappropriate. Nor can I let fear of the unknown take precedence over love for what I do know. It should also be noted, as her mother, I hug people when greeting them and saying good-bye. Actions speak louder than words, and even if I didn’t verbally encourage her to hug others, I have no doubt she would do so because she watches my every move, she learns by watching my actions. I hug my parents, my siblings, my friends, my family. I don’t hug the neighbors, or the grocery clerk, or people at the park, or the waiter at dinner, or even the Target employees I know by name. She watches. She learns. She understands. Even at the age of 2.


There will come a day when I will need to address physical attention with my children – the good kind and the bad kind.


Thankfully, for their sake and mine, it won’t be today, or tomorrow, or on Christmas, with family, or by giving hugs.


With the upcoming holidays, I encourage you to let your children show love, let your children be loved... The good kind, by the good people. Hugs included.