How To Set Physical Boundaries For Your Kids And Relatives During The Holidays.

We’re in the thick of the holidays, and with that, come many invitations to holiday parties and family gatherings. Many of you probably have young children who will be attending some of these events with you, and most of the time, they are lots of fun for everyone involved.

However, I recently had one mother write me this email:

“Jason, I don’t know what to do.  I take my son, who’s 6 to the annual party at my parents’ house, where my parents, brother and sisters and their families are.  Inevitably, my son will be so shy when we walk through the door that he pulls away when he sees his grandparents or aunts and uncle.  They want a hug, but he pulls away.  It’s worrisome to me as I’m afraid that he’s being rude to our family.  Any thoughts?”

This mother is not alone!  It is not uncommon for children to shy away from people, even if those people are known family members. What we as parents need to remember is that when it comes to helping our children express which forms of physical contact they’re comfortable with, we as parents, play a vital role.

It starts with us accepting that our children do not have to hug and kiss family members and that avoidance of a hug or a kiss is not a sign of disrespect.  It’s about accepting your child’s physical boundaries.  It is essential for us as parents to take those boundaries into consideration.  There may be some physical touches that some of our children are not comfortable with, and that is perfectly acceptable!  

Fortunately, the pandemic has given your child an acceptable excuse to avoid some physical contacts they may not feel comfortable with.

Having said that, however, children still have to greet people in an appropriate way.  Therefore, you need to teach your children how to shake hands, or teach them to fist bump, or verbalize a greeting.  Anything your child feels comfortable with is perfectly acceptable.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want to teach your child to acknowledge their hosts and their guests.  

Don’t expect your child to do this on his or her own.  We as parents must teach our children how to behave in these types of situations.

It’s also good to give a little heads up to your relatives and friends.  It’s perfectly acceptable to let them know that your child does not like to hug and kiss.  Most family members will be understanding.  They’ll likely be grateful as you’re saving them from an embarrassing situation.  

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Jason Spear Miller