I am going to make a pretty bold statement here today, one that will likely cause some to want to disagree with me right away. But I ask that you read my reasons for taking the stand I did years ago with my kids before you just dismiss what I am about to say.
I believe that you should never make your kids kiss and hug their grandparents.
That’s right, I said it.
When my kids were little I made the decision that one thing I was never going to do was make them hug or kiss anyone… EVER!
This included relatives, like grandma and papa.
I know that this might have offended some, but I think that most people will get over their own hurt feelings if you gently explain why you are not making hugs and kisses mandatory for your kids.
Why, you ask?
When you force your kids to show affection to anyone, you take away their right to say no at any time that they feel they need to. I also believe that we all have this voice within us that we learn to listen to by practicing paying attention to it from as early an age as possible.
I also believe that we can train ourselves to no longer hear that voice if we ignore it over and over again.
I am not saying grandma or grandpa will hurt them, although honestly it is not out of the question considering that most kids who experience abuse are abused by close relatives and 90% of abuse is done by someone the child knows. But allowing my kids to say no when it came to their own bodies was very important to me, since I grew up knowing what it was like to not have the ability to say no safely.
I wanted my kids to learn to place their own boundaries, and that meant starting from the beginning by allowing them to make the decision to give out and accept hugs and kisses only if they wanted to.
I could never understand how telling them they should say no if someone wanted to touch them inappropriately would help keep them safe if I did not give them the power to do so on their own terms.
When my son was little he would not hug or kiss anyone.
And I was perfectly alright with his decision because I wanted him to know that no matter what he was in charge of that part of his life, and I would respect his choice.
Even though I know others have judged the way we were choosing to parent in that situation, I knew I was doing the right thing by both of my kids. So I ignored the rare comment or strange look from those that refused to understand the why behind our decision to empower our kids in this way.
When I was little, I had a grandparent that was a little too affectionate…
I hated the end of any visit because that would come the time for goodbyes that always left me covered in sloppy wet kisses and feeling like I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide forever.
I didn’t grow up in a family situation where it was safe to express my discomfort by saying no to kissing and hugging grandma and grandpa, so I behaved just like any obedient little girl would and put myself right into the arms that would find ways to touch and hold a little too long inappropriately.
I truly do believe that this was one of the reasons I never felt empowered to say no in other situations.
My mom always told me to tell her if anyone touched me inappropriately. I knew she meant that, but for some reason this was one situation that did not feel like I the freedom to say anything and so I never did until I was older and moved out on my own.
I always heard “Go give grandma & grandpa a hug & kiss goodbye” and in a strange way I didn’t even know that what was happening was wrong and for a really long time I blamed myself for having bad thoughts about someone that was supposed to be a safe person in my life.
I was so confused by the double message I was receiving and I stayed in that confused state for a long time.
So please hear me out…
I ask that the next time you are preparing to leave, instead of initiating the goodbye ritual of hugs and kisses maybe you go ahead and say goodbye the way you feel comfortable and allow your kids to do the same.
Maybe they’ll want to give a hug or kiss goodbye, and that is perfectly fine as long as it is their choice and not a requirement to keep everyone happy at their expense.
There may come a day when they need to say no to someone and knowing that they have that right, might be the difference between speaking up or living in silent shame.
April is Child Abuse Awareness month and I am joining over 50 bloggers to shine the light on this very dark topic so that we can end child abuse before it even starts.
If you have ever had any experiences with child abuse, know that you are not alone! You are part of an amazing group of the strongest survivors! I am honored to stand with you as we bring what was once a taboo topic into the light for all to see.
Yes it is an ugly and dirty topic, but WE ARE NOT!
I hope you will join me as I learn to forgive myself and continue to seek out the healing I need to be stronger every day.
I am planning to share a few more posts about My Story of Grace throughout the month of April.
If you want to read what others bloggers are sharing about child abuse prevention check out the hashtag #endbeforeitstarts