The holidays are upon us and with it, a lot of get-togethers and reuniting with long-lost relatives. As families come together to revel in holiday festivities, parents may tell their small children, “give your grandma a kiss” or “go sit on Aunt Sarah’s lap.” However, parents should be reminded that children need to be taught to only consent to physical affection that they are comfortable with, even if that includes denying affection to long-lost loved ones. Children need to set their own boundaries for their own bodies so that they can grow into healthy, confident adults. Parents must also understand that their 15-year-old daughter is totally macking on her 16-year-old cousin out in the garage, so they should probably go throw water on that fire.
Childhood years are formative years: what you teach your young child will last them a lifetime. It is important to teach them that they do not “owe” anyone a kiss, and they should not “just hug your Uncle Mike, it will only take a second.” Imagine that attitude in adulthood! Can you imagine someone telling your adult daughter she “owes” them something for dinner or help with their career? Of course not! Consent is crucial in all physical relationships, such as when your daughter Kaylee looked up from her phone and told her cousin Brad that, like, he could “totally touch over the sweater if you wanted.” Look mom, you taught me about assertiveness and consent, and besides, it’s not like we’re gonna do any other stuff, ok? Well, maybe Kaylee is a little *too* vocal about her boundaries in the wrong way.
A healthy child can show affection with relatives through any myriad of ways — through high fives, sharing jokes, singing a song, or laughing. Encourage your children to show manners and social grace around all relatives while maintaining comfortable boundaries. And go make Kaylee help grandma with the stuffing because, ya know, anything to keep her hands busy and off Brad. He’s got a full mustache, he’s like 6 feet tall… I mean, yeah, he’s her step-cousin, and they’re not actually related and all, but it’s still weird and inappropriate and, and, and, just stop it right now, ok?