Why your child doesn’t owe anyone a hug this holiday season

By Jailan Heidar

Every holiday season or big family event I see the same thing. Kids being told to go ahead and give a friend or relative they haven’t seen in ages a hug or a kiss. Sometimes pressure being put on kids by insisting or telling them that the other person is going to be sad. We feel embarrassed as parents that our kids have “misbehaved” or aren’t nice. But are they really? Is the physical contact that important? Why can’t we settle for a simple hello or handshake even? Physical contact is such an intimate situation, especially a hug or kiss.

I understand that for a lot of us, we don’t want the other person to feel offended and not liked. That person is probably a family member or friend we talk to regularly and we are close to even if the kids don’t see them. A best friend, grandparent, aunt or uncle. Trust me, I understand. I’m raising my kids in one country while each of their grandparents, aunts, uncles and my best friends are in different countries. It’s tough when I talk to my best friends regularly then when my kids see them once a year they won’t say hello. But you know what? within an hour they’ve usually warmed up to them and are offering hugs and kisses themselves as they say goodbye. Because with people who really love your kids, the love comes through no matter what.

Whenever you start feeling awkward or embarrassed just think, .would you be happy if a relative (loved or not) grabs hold of you and gives you a big smooch? I doubt it. Would you feel safe/secure/relaxed/comfortable if your spouse/partner pushed you onto another adult who expected you to great them with a hug? Definitely not.

Let’s ask ourselves, why do we allow this behavior on children if we don’t allow it on ourselves as adults? The point of letting children choose whether they want to give hugs, kisses or even shake hands is not about letting them be rude or letting them get away with getting out of social etiquette.

This choice is empowerment. It’s letting your child know his/her space and body are their own. They get to choose who can come into that space. It’s also about building natural loving bonds through experiences. Isn’t that a completely natural and important lesson to learn?

So this holiday season, prepare yourself mentally in advance that your child may not rush into everyone’s arms. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about or apologize for. Reduce your expectations to your child giving a simple and respectful hello or handshake. That’s OK!

I hope you join me as we all try to be that parent who teaches that security, boundaries, limits, and consent are far more important than societal pressure and niceties ❤️

And trust that the love will come through.

A relationship is not based on the length of time you spent together; it’s based on the foundation you built together.”