The holiday season is now in full swing and with that typically comes gatherings with family and friends. While visiting with our loved ones it’s very common to tell our kiddos to go give so and so a hug; at times our kiddo is shy and reluctant to do so and our common response is something to the effect of “that’s not very nice you need to give them a hug”. While “Aunt Sarah” might be a little hurt that they didn’t get a hug, it’s so much more important to allow our children to make their own rules about their bodies. We can go a step further and explain to family and friends that our children set their own rules for physical contact and encourage them to join us in praising them when they set these body rules. Frequently in our house you will hear one of my children tell the other “my body, my rules!” It’s so important that we teach our children that they get to set the rules (aka boundaries) for their bodies whether it’s with “Aunt Sarah”, grandma, grandpa or in the future a boyfriend/girlfriend. In doing so we can help prevent them from becoming victims of sexual assault. Some may think that one has nothing to do with another, but consider the teenage girl who has always been pushed to give affection so as to avoid hurting someone and is then pushed into a situation that they are uncomfortable with by a relative or acquaintance because they will make them “sad” if they don’t give in. We are not only teaching our children body safety we are also teaching them that they are not responsible for making others feel happy.
I challenge everyone this holiday season to listen to your kids when they are reluctant to give physical affection to go with it and teach them that it’s their body and their rules!
-Cassie Potts, MA, LPC