When my granddaughter was little, she would often hide behind her mum’s legs when I came over, or when they came to visit me, meaning I often didn’t get the hello hug I was looking forward to. It didn’t really bother me but my son would often be embarrassed, sometimes angry, and would try to convince her to give Grandma a hug.
I’ve never seen any harm in this but, according to sexual health expert Ruthie Patriquin, cajoling an embrace out of a child can be harmful.
Patriquin says in her column for an American newspaper, “Helping [children] to understand consent is a skill they can learn from a very early age.”
She argues that even the most innocent exchange – a grandparent greeting her grandchild – can be a lesson in sexual health, which she says is about much more than “body parts and babies”, including the concept of consent.
She says we should always ask first before hugging a child.
Ad. Article continues below.
“When asking for consent, let’s teach children to wait for an answer. The answer isn’t yes, unless we hear the person say ‘YES’. Let’s also help children understand that a ‘yes’ doesn’t count if they have forced the person into saying it.
“We can talk about the word ‘NO’ – it’s an important word – we all must learn to respect it. We don’t have to let anyone touch us if we don’t want them to.”
This echoes advice from earlier in the year in which a child psychologist said it was “too sexual” to give a child a kiss on the lips. Dr Charlotte Reznick told The Sun newspaper this can be confusing for children because the mouth is an erogenous zone, therefore a kiss on a child’s lips from a parent can be “stimulating”.
I haven’t yet forgotten the pecks on the lips my granny used to give me a million moons ago and I would describe them more as “hairy” than “stimulating”. While I do my best to make sure my kisses aren’t furry, I can’t see myself withdrawing from kissing or hugging my grandbabies on the grounds of “sexual health”, but maybe I’m in the wrong?
While I accept that some children are less affectionate than others, I can’t help think that keeping them at arm’s length will do them any favours. Is it not the grandparent’s role to demonstrate that affection can be pure and loving?
Tell me, do you think it’s wrong for grandparents to “force ” their grandchildren into hugging and kissing them? Will you stop doing so?