Social media campaign sparks debate around boundaries and children

You might think it is perfectly normal to hug and kiss relatives and other loved ones at Christmas time (or

You might think it is perfectly normal to hug and kiss relatives and other loved ones at Christmas time (or any other occasion), but according to a new children’s rights campaign kids forced to get cuddly with their relatives grow up with conflicting messages about ‘consent’.

Though the social media campaign ‘Safe Kids Thriving Families’ created by a New Zealand-based social services agency, CAPS Hauraki, has been around for a little while now, it became widely shared across social media during the festive season when it is customary in a lot of families to embrace and/or kiss as part of a greeting or departure.

The full message on the A Mighty Girl Facebook page reads: “I am 5. My body is my body. Don’t force me to kiss or hug. I am learning about consent and your support on this will help me keep myself safe for the rest of my life” and is accompanied by an excerpt of an article written by Katia Hetter, a writer and producer at CNN in the United States.

Now while some children might be all up for cuddles and kisses, there are those children who want nothing to do with such activities and that by forcing children to engage when they don’t want to puts them at risk.

The agency is quick to quash the thought it is opposed to hugs and kisses and says the campaign is about acknowledging that children have powerful instincts and sometimes adults override these instincts because of some sort of social nicety that is largely based on the needs and/or wants of the adult.

In response to the post, many Facebook users have offered alternatives to hugging and kissing with one user saying a “hello, high five or handshake is acceptable, and offers the children the choice of whether to touch the adult or not when saying hello”.

Earlier this year Lucy Emmerson, a coordinator at the Sex Education Forum in the United Kingdom, said that instead of “helping a child learn about showing affection, it [forcing them to hug or kiss a relative] might blur the boundaries of what is acceptable when it comes to physical contact”.

Her opinion formed part of a discussion on the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles that found one in five women and one in 20 men across the UK had experienced attempted sex against their will.

“I believe learning about consent starts from age zero,” Emmerson said at the time, highlighting that children learn from everyday experiences about whether or not their opinion is valued and what control they have over physical contact with others.

Perhaps you can understand the position of this campaign and would be outraged if your child or grandchild was forced to hug or kiss a complete stranger. However, is this outrage in any way different to encouraging your child or grandchild to hug and kiss you or another of their relatives? No doubt you have some opinions on this topic yourself.

What do you think? Did you encourage your children or grandchildren to hug and kiss relatives when they might be reluctant to do so? What recommendations do you have on this issue?

  1. Judy  

    What a load of PC nonsense that’s what’s wrong today parents trying to lay their guilt on their children trying to make everyone especially men to be seen as perverts what a load of bollocks

    • Woul you ask your parent or your teenage or adult child to display affection to someone they don’t know, or hardly know by kiss or hug? I would think not, as it is disrespectful. So why disrespect your child? My kids volunteered to kiss and hug relatives if they wanted to. Affection aught to never be forced. I ask my small grandchildren and great grandchildren “can I have a hug?” It is not forced, and if I get. “No” I am not offended. They have rights! Only recently I offered to hold my great grandchild’s hand as my daughter was getting items out of the car and I got. “No, I want to hold Nanna’s hand” this is perfectly fine.
      So often children are sexually molested by people of trust, so I am totally supportive of children having authority over their decision to say “no” in regard to touch.

  2. Glen  

    As a child i was always expected to kiss friends and family members I didn’t necessarily know or like. I didn’t like having to do so, so when I had my own children I never made them kiss anyone they didn’t want to, no matter who it was. How can they understand stranger danger if parents expect them to kiss strangers or people they don’t feel comfortable with?

  3. Paul  

    This is an issue for adults as well. Those man hugs that sportsmen now use seem to produce a lot of discomfort.

  4. Mark  

    It people like you who make comment like this that makes this world had to live in because I live to give my six grand kids a hug and a kiss I think you need to go under ground wake up you fxxk wits

  5. While I instinctively want to respond with a poo poo to the whole thing!..The alternative would be to give the child a choice…ie ” Nana would love a cuddle” ..with a welcoming smile ,and if possible down at their height No threat there, and the child can then respond anyway they wish

  6. A load of bull. The PC Brigade in action again. Is there anything left that’s sacred? Eventually we’ll have a generation of robots, don’t hug, don’t kiss, don’t sit on grandpa’s knee, father’s nervous about having their kids sitting on their knee in case it’s misinterpreted. it all seems to aim at the destruction of childhood and making children adults before they are children. Gone are the days of carefree children, where they played with friends, weren’t over-burdened with do’s and don’ts, and they are in the main addicted to TV games, phones, and generally lacking social skills.

  7. Peter May  

    What a load of crap…teach children to love and hug others, very, very, very few adults want to hurt children and a lot of those who do are are the parents themselves….I am a grandparent and love the smile I get when I hug and kiss my granddaughter….these people are idiots….

  8. Robyn  

    So we have to explain to our children that you might not want to get physical with Grandma And Pop as they might sexually assault you even tho they love you to pieces. Omg these people are way off the mark. Its all so very sad that kids can no longer be kids, that they have to learn at such a young age that there are sexual preditors all around us including family members.

  9. Dawn Hawkins  

    This is not about suggesting that family and friends are sexual predators, or political correctness. It is about teaching children about choice and and self respect. Of course we should touch and hug children as much as possible, but only if that is what they want at that moment in time. Some children will lap up all the attention,some will take a little time. Children should be taught how to be polite and respectful of adults but left with a choice as to who they allow into their their personal space. A hug that is freely given is worth so much more than one that is taken against a child’s will.

    • Thank you, your reply is bang on! Why should children have to be encouraged to be kissed and hugged if they don’t want to!
      As adults we do not welcome these advances so children need to know they can refuse such advances and invasion of their bodies.

  10. lurch  

    I guess if I have any physical contact with my grandchildren (who rush to great and hug me when I arrive and are leaving) I am a paedophile, according to those wankers. My second thought was “and we wonder why so many children are narcissistic little brats”

    • No, this is not suggested at all. If your grandchildren and you have this trusting relationship, that is wonderful. They are initiating the expression of love for you with a hug and kiss.
      Would you expect them to approach a person they don’t know and trust in the same way? I expect not!
      When children are forced to do so, then this is when they are learning that they have no rights to who and how they are touched. This is what is meant by the article. The world is full of loving and trustworthy people, however if a child is not taught that they have the right to refuse approaches when they do not feel comfortable, then they can be preyed upon by creeps with evil intent, as does happen from time to time. Children have the right to say “no” to what is unpleasant for them as much as adults do.

  11. Chris  

    Boundaries are great to keep safe but need to be respected both ways. A hug and kiss is a formal sign of affection and a child who refuses to show affection to an adult can be treated coolly by the adult in return as they are sending a sign of dislike and discomfort. In turn, the precious child can antipate being requested to leave the room if they are too loud or interrupt adult conversation or grab something that does not belong to them without asking permission or speak rudely to other people.

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