To hug or not to hug

With the festive season approaching, many of our thoughts turn to presents for family and organising visits to relatives over the holiday season.

Visits to family can be joyous occasions. People we haven’t seen in almost a year or several months, in some cases, all come together to celebrate. Over the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of discussion around whether or not children should be made to hug relatives when they are visiting.

Many people feel that children should be made to hug their relatives. They see it as a sign of respect and something that must be done. They advocate that it didn’t do them any harm and so children should hug their relatives. Adults don’t want to upset their elder relatives if their children refuse to hug them.

The argument is complex, and I can’t possibly cover it all here. And I have no intention to even try.

However, what is abundantly clear is that there are very strong views either side of the argument. During Safeguarding Hour on Twitter, this discussion took place between professionals (search #SGHour for the comments). What is clear is that neither extreme is helpful to a child.

It is not helpful to ban hugging children. I suspect this would not help with their development and growth as a person. Equally, it is not helpful to force children to hug adults simply because a parent doesn’t want to lose face.

There can be many reasons why a child doesn’t want to hug an adult. It can go from simply being uncomfortable being that close to an unknown relative to a child suffering abuse from that relative or another person.

With ever increasing reports of sexual abuse, it is important to help children understand they have a say over their own bodies. The NSPCC ran a successful campaign about PANTS to help children understand their private parts.

There is a great book by Jayneen Saunders – lets talk about body boundaries, consent and respectyou can get it from Amazon via this link

Whether hugging relatives did you no harm really isn’t the issue. It is about our children and young people being given consent over their own bodies. If they make the decision to choose to hug a relative, then so be it. They should never be forced to do it.


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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Katherine T Young Ltd & Kate Young disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.

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