Girl Scouts warn: Forcing kids to hug relatives messes them up

Are the good old days of hugging your grandchild at Christmas over?

The silly season is nearly here and chances are you and your grandchildren will be attending some kind of family gathering over the festive period.

Getting a hug and a kiss from a beloved grandchild or several is a lovely part of the day for many grandparents, but experts are warning that this age-old practice could be damaging to children. And anyone who remembers being strongly ‘encouraged’ as a kid to give a rarely-seen relative a kiss or a cuddle may well agree with them!

The Mirror reports that the Girl Scouts of the United States of America has encouraged parents not to force their daughters to embrace relatives at family gatherings.

The advice from the Girl Scouts, titled Reminder: She doesn’t owe anyone a hug. Not even at the holidays, suggested that making a child hug someone when they don’t want to could be confusing for the little one.

“Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life,” the Girl Scouts advised.

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“Give your girl the space to decide when and how she wants to show affection. Of course, many children may naturally want to hug and kiss family members, friends, and neighbours, and that’s lovely – but if your daughter is reticent, don’t force her.”

The Girl Scouts pointed out that there were other ways a child could show their gratitude and appreciation without physical contact, and that something as simple as a smile, high-five or air kiss could be enough.

The organisation’s developmental psychologist Andrea Bastiani Archibald warned that while encouraging close embraces may be innocent, they could actually has negative impacts on the way  the child behaved in adult life.

“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children, but the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime, and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets old,” the psychologist advised.

“Plus, sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”

Given that Hollywood has been rocked by countless numbers of sexual harassment claims over the past few months, it’s easy to understand why the Girl Scouts of the United States of America has issued this warning. On the other hand, is this simply just another case of political correctness gone mad?

Is it wrong for children to hug grown-ups at family celebrations? Do you hug your grandchildren at family gatherings? Is this warning valid or is it just another thing for parents or grandparents to feel guilty about?