Girl Scouts: ‘Don’t make kids hug relatives at Christmas’

The Girl Scouts of the USA have warned parents not to force their daughters to hug relatives at Christmas in case it creates intimacy issues later in life.

In a PSA that’s now been shared by almost 7,000 people on Facebook, they warned not to tell children to hug their aunts and uncles 

Doing so, they said, ‘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 of the USA says forcing young girls to hug relatives can lead to them believing that they ‘owe’ intimacy to people for dinners or favors later in life

The article said that parents don’t need to worry about children who naturally want to show affection to relatives.

But it warned against saying ‘Uncle just got here – go give him a big hug!’ or ‘Auntie gave you that nice toy, go give her a kiss.’

Instead, it said, other forms of greeting – a high-five or an air kiss – can work just fine, but ‘it’s important that she knows she gets to choose which feels most comfortable to her.’

‘The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children,’  Dr Andrea Bastiani Archibald, the Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist, is quoted as saying.

‘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 older. 

‘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.’

The article received mixed responses on Facebook.

‘No girl is going to seriously think she has to get physical with a guy to be polite, just because she had to give Aunt Betty a hug at Christmas when she was little,’ wrote Angelique McKowan.

‘Seriously,’ agreed Jennifer Berry Connerley. ‘Maybe I’m crazy but hugging that weird uncle that smelled bad 37 Christmases ago hardly threw me into therapy or made me feel I owed anyone anything. 

‘I’ve eaten a lot of free meals and watched a lot of free movies from different paying men and never once felt like I had to “repay” them bc mommy made me hug uncle creepo.’

But others came out in defense of the suggestions. 

Christina Elkins said: ‘I work in the social services and there are kids that are victimized because someone manipulated them and made them feel they had no choice and they are expected to accept hugs and kisses from people if they’re nice. 

‘Most abused are familiar with the victim.’

Rachel Carter added: ‘We tell kids about good touch bad touch and bad touch is any touch they don’t like, but we as adults from a small age force this very notion of hugging or kissing someone WE know but little kids are uncomfortable with.

‘Most molesters are a trusted family member or friend not a stranger. So we need to stop propagating forced affection.’

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 93 per cent of child sexual abusers are known to the victim, and 34 per cent are relatives.