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With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it might be easy to forget that holiday gatherings and social events during this season can trigger anxiety for children.  They are often expected or even instructed to hug and kiss people they don’t know well or don’t know at all.  Rarely do we offer children the choice in the matter, yet we are quite diligent about reminding them in other settings that it’s their body and their choice.

It’s important to talk to children about the fact that no one has the right to touch their body without their permission, including family and friends. Remember: 90% of abused children are victimized by someone they–or the family–know, love, or trust.

As adults, our focus is to protect children and to set proper boundaries that make children feel safe, and that helps to prevent abuse.

It’s an adult’s role to empower children to own their bodies and teach children about consent and abuse prevention. Children and teens should know that it is their right to say “no, thank you,” if they feel uncomfortable when approached for affection. It’s that simple. Teaching this early helps children understand inappropriate touching or behavior; it reinforces their personal rights and reminds them that you are a trusted advocate. If necessary, talk to friends, family, and other adults ahead of time. Kind words such as “may I give you a hug? Is that ok?” can go a long way.

Encourage your child to come up with THEIR way of expressing “thank you” or other well-wishes — brainstorm alternative options with your family for expressing love or gratitude like giving high-fives and fist bumps. And be sure to model these behaviors as well. Reaffirm this message with your family and friends. It’s a great message that applies year-round.

Our partners at SafeSecureKids.org have resources to help you learn how to incorporate age-appropriate conversations into your everyday life. Click here to learn more, and have a safe and happy holiday.