We all have childhood experiences with our parents or others forcing us to hug someone we didn’t want to. But what if we had permission to say “no” when confronted with someone’s open arms?
At holiday gatherings, family reunions, or other events where adults and children will be, inevitably adults will expect hugs and kisses from children, with parents often encouraging the physical interaction. Sometimes the child knows the person well, other times perhaps not.
With a child’s will taken away from them, this makes sexual abuse more available. Before you think this is quite a jump, consider how it makes a child think if parents or other adults are always forcing hugs and kisses on them. How is that much different if someone older than them says they have to touch or be touched inappropriately to show their affection and love to another? Answer: It’s not.
Teach your child the power of “No.”
If your child understands they are in charge of their body and they get to decide if they want a hug or kiss, this is preparing them to say no is someone tries to get them to do something inappropriate. The power of no could save your child from sexual abuse.
As an alternative, parents can teach their child that rather than giving hugs or kisses, a high five, fist bump, or handshake is just fine. Or, they can simply say, “no, thank you” and walk away. They don’t have to have a reason why they don’t want to hug or kiss grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, or close friends. This is helping your child learn that they are in charge of their own bodies.
If someone is upset over this decision, you can explain the reasoning, or just let them know that’s the way it is. I’d much rather offend an adult than risk my child’s safety.
Additionally, your child may be comfortable hugging someone one day, but not so much another day. They are figuring out their own boundaries and learning to make that choice on their own.
Also important is to teach your child to listen to their inner voice or the Holy Ghost. If they have a bad or uncomfortable feeling around someone, they need to listen to that feeling. They need to trust their instincts to stay safe.
Yes, we want to teach our children to love, but there are so many other ways to show love that do not involve any touching. For instance, they can draw a picture or write a note.
Beware if any adult wants to spend a lot of time with your child–particularly unsupervised, or if they are giving your child lots of attention or gifts. This is a big warning flag. Most adults don’t seek close relationships with children who are not their own kids. This could be an indication of grooming–carefully gaining their trust before they start sexually abusing a child.
If you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse, you may be extra paranoid, wanting to watch or hover over your children. And really, I can’t blame you because I’m the same way. I get anxious when my children are not in sight. I don’t trust people alone with them. Be mindful of where your children are and check on them frequently. If you inner voice says something isn’t right, follow through. Do not ignore that warning voice.
Teach your children about sexual abuse and that they are in charge of their bodies. No one can touch them without their permission. They have the power to say “No” if they don’t want to hug or kiss someone, even if it’s a close relative. Children must know they can tell you if someone even tries to touch them inappropriately. Assure them you won’t ever be angry because of something they tell you.
There is power in saying “No.” Teach the power of “No” to your children.