During the holidays children might visit family and friends.
Friends and family might come over to visit. They haven’t seen the children in a long time. We think nothing of it when they rush over to hug and perhaps kiss the children.
But wait. Do the kids want to be hugged and kissed? Are they comfortable with this?
Not all children will be comfortable with this. A lot of parents and guardians think that it is a child’s duty to go along with these hugs, any hugs and all hugs that follow, and maybe that arm around the shoulders too. I’m not kidding you. I’m just telling you what they tell me.
“It is how you teach them to show that they love one another.”
Why Advocates & Survivors Have Concerns
1. Not even all adults like to be hugged or touched.
Children should learn that it is perfectly okay to have a preference not to be touched. People have a right to set up their own personal boundaries. Children are people.
Remember, as children’s bodies are changing they may feel uncomfortable with physical closeness at times. Yes, even for a second.
People can show that they love or care for one another by respecting one another’s individual person’s boundaries.
2. Children learn so much from our actions.
Yes, we can tell them all the safety stuff that we want. That is great.
But you erase that when you teach them, but none of that matters if we know the person and think that they are nice. Never mind that well over the vast majority of rapes, child sexual abuse cases are committed by people known to the victims and their families.
So, you don’t teach children to think about how they feel about something. How to listen to their inner gut. How to realize that they always have the right to set up boundaries. And, how to get away from danger when seconds really make a difference.
The mistake while unintentional can be costly all the same.
Support for Teens
Also, when adolescents mature there are times during family gatherings that adults make comments that are sexual in nature. Everyone laughs it off. Even the teen laughs about it, but that doesn’t mean that they like it.
Adults should be mindful that while teens may laugh along they aren’t always comfortable with these sexual comments.
I can only speak for girls. Teen girls learn one lesson pretty quickly. Depending on which family gathering you are attending, after about that second drink, stay away from the male relatives section. Because once some relatives and their guests get tipsy the stuff that comes forth from their mouths about your body, my goodness.
And, they must print out a script. Because, as you get older and talk about family gatherings amongst a cross-section of other women, it tends to be some of the same phrases.
Check with Your Experts
But you know who the real experts are? Your children.
This might be a great time to ask them how them some questions. Get the conversation started.
1. You’ve grown up so much, do you feel comfortable with hugs? Do you feel like hugs? How do you feel about kisses? Do you feel uncomfortable if a family member kisses you on the cheek?
2. Does anyone that comes around the family make you feel a little uncomfortable sometimes? I won’t think that you are accusing them of anything. You’re just saying they make you feel funny.
If you ever feel uncomfortable, please let me know. I am here for you.
(Note: You can use words like “icky” or “yucky” for the little ones.)
Parenting is challenging. Just remember, they learn from what they see us do more than what they hear us say.
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“We’ve been there, experienced that. Trauma, Pain, Abuse & Rape. These are the lessons that we brought back.”
–Tonya GJ Prince has been a leading subject matter expert (SME) in domestic violence and sexual violence.
For over 25 years she has helped people heal, prevent, and overcome domestic and sexual violence.
In order to accomplish this mission, she founded several diverse & inclusive platforms designed to allow Survivors to use their own voices including;
WESurviveAbuse.com, SurvivorAffirmations.com, & BraidtheLadder.org.
Tonya is an author, activist, advocate, Survivor, speaker, counselor, & mentor.
B.S. Organizational Management & Development/Bluefield College
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