When families get together, relatives have a tendency to swoop down on young children and slather them with hugs and kisses. From Granny’s point of view, this is a darling child she hasn’t seen for weeks, or possibly months. But things look different for the young child.
Who is this stranger? I don’t remember her. Those kisses are too juicy. I don’t want to be hugged like that.
Some children are ready for an affectionate reunion at any time, but many kids need help setting boundaries. Kids have the right not to be touched – even by Granny – and standing up for their rights is all part of developing positive assertiveness.
1. Set expectations on all sides.
When Granny, Aunt Sarah or Uncle Robert come to visit, for example:
For your child: “We’ll come to the door when Aunt Sarah arrives. She may want to hug you since Aunt Sarah loves to hug her family.”
To the adult, “Ada hasn’t seen you in a while. She doesn’t always want to hug people she doesn’t know.”
If your child hides behind you or tries to avoid kisses or hugs, don’t label her “shy” or “rude.” Look at the fears and feelings going on.
2. Kids are the bosses of their own bodies.
That means they can say no to hugs or kisses at any time.
This is a safety lesson, but it’s also fundamentally about respect. If a child doesn’t want to be touched, that feeling should be respected.
Kids need help being backed up on this since it’s hard for a young child to fend off the well-meaning advances of a doting Granny or Grandpa.
3. Find other ways to engage your child with the visitor.
Ask her to go bring a glass of water, take Granny’s coat, or help carry a bag up to her room. Suggest they read a story together – reading together is a great way to break down the barriers and before you know it your child may soon be snuggling on her lap.
Have you ever had trouble navigating greetings between your child and friends and relatives? What strategies work for you?