I saw a post this morning which was my inspiration for todays blog. I’m trying to figure out the culture, family tradition etc in which children are forced to hug/kiss people, whether they want to or not. Is it because it’s what has always been done? Do their parents feel they are bad parents if they don’t make their child do this? Will the child appear rude? What are the reasons?
I, unfortunately, did do this on occasion with my children regrettably when they were younger especially with my parents. I figured if my parents were flying 3000 miles from Los Angeles to Boston to see their grand kids the least my kids could do was give them a hug to say hello. But why? Why can’t it be ok for them to do it on their own, or not at all?
Maybe they haven’t seen their grandparents in quite a while and they need some time to warm up to them. Maybe their grandparent isn’t a great person…..it happens. What if the child simply doesn’t want to give them a hug or kiss? Would you want to be told when to hug and kiss someone? What if you really just didn’t feel like it? Why should it be any different for a child?
Is it really even about the hug or kiss or is it about –control? I really feel it is more about control, than the actual hug or kiss and possibly more about the parents concern over what others think or of appearing like a bad parent. Maybe even feeling their child will be viewed as disrespectful? This is such an important topic and I don’t have all the answers, as I’ve said, I’ve been there done that, but why exactly did I do it?
I can remember when my children were around 9 and 13 we went to my husbands friends birthday party. My husband grew up with this family and his friends mother was like a second mother to him. His friends father was there and he walked up to greet us and immediately began to hug & kiss me and my two girls. My girls were visibly uncomfortable.
Who was this guy? They didn’t even know him and certainly did not want him touching them or to have to hug or kiss him and why would or should they? I remember he made a snide comment while looking at me when my girls pulled away, stating with contempt, “What no hug and kiss?” Thank fully at the time my boyfriend, now husband, stopped him in his tracks and stated “They don’t kiss people they don’t know.” I felt like adding, “And we don’t force them too either.”
I know personally I feel extremely uncomfortable when a child is told to hug me. First off, I want a child to show affection to me on their terms and because they feel comfortable, not because they are forced too. But also because I hold this topic very dear to my heart and feel very passionate about it. It is a for me about the much bigger picture of children having a choice when it comes to themselves and their body and what is being done to them or what they are being told to do to others-including hugging or kissing them.
Which brings me to the next part of why I have such a passionate take on why it is so important not to force children to hug or kiss people when they don’t want to. I think the main point for me, when I think about this from the standpoint of being a childhood sexual abuse survivor, is that I was taught by the adults around me that I needed to listen to others including my babysitters, older cousins, etc. So when a hug becomes something more than a hug, or a kiss more than a kiss, then what?
I truly believe that this statement sums it up perfectly : A CNN article entitled I Don’t Own My Child’s Body that explores these questions is the subject of lively discussion here. Katia Hetter, its author, asserts that, “Forcing children to touch people when they don’t want to leaves them vulnerable to sexual abusers, most of whom are people known to the children they abuse.” There is so much truth to the above statement. If a child is taught to listen to others, how do they know if and when they can draw the line? Especially if they have never been allowed to draw the line so to speak. How can they learn to listen to that voice inside them if that has not been encouraged and instead repressed. How about if they just plain don’t feel like it?
What about if/when the times comes that something inappropriate does happen will they know they have the right to say NO? If they’ve never been given that right, how on earth would they feel they have it in that type of a situation?If the child has been taught that they are supposed to do what others want, not what they feel comfortable with, it can be confusing for the child. When their parents or other adults around them say things like -” Give so and so a hug or a kiss” or “Make sure you listen to your babysitter, older cousin, adults etc.” That can set a child up to “listen” to others no matter what and to not feel in control or have the ability to say “no” when someone touches them in a way they don’t want to be touched. I think the message children may get is ” I have to hug/kiss people and do what they say whether I want to or not” In the child’s mind they may not be able to differentiate when this is appropriate and when it is not appropriate or even feel they have a choice.
These examples are just from my personal perspective growing up, but I am guessing that many others may have been subjected to this as well or may face this as I have with their own children. If you’ve done it with your children, as I have in the past it’s nothing to beat ourselves up over. I think it’s just something to be aware of, to talk about and to bring it out in the open for discussion. I think it’s important and needs to be addressed, because after all whose body is it anyway?
Wishing you well on your Healing Journey Anne-Marie Wiesman