A child is sometimes forced to sit on the lap of an adult for that “memorable” photo of them screaming & squirming. It’s not funny, and more importantly – it’s sending a subliminal message with negative implications.
Even if it’s a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or well meaning stranger – all children have the right to not engage in physical contact with someone if they’re not comfortable.
From a very young age, our children depend on us to provide security and protection. When we force them to be held, kiss, or hug someone that they’re uncomfortable with – we’re telling them that their personal space and feelings are not important or in their control.
We’re essentially telling them that they should submit when a person of authority/power wants to engage in physical contact, even when they don’t want to. Abusers are not foolish, they understand the power they hold over the child and the assumption of others that their intentions are good.
A doctor’s visit, when it is necessary for their health to be examined, is an exception. As best you can, depending on their age, comfort and explain that it is necessary and you are there for them. You should always be present in the room and not just physically, but mentally. We’ve had adults come to us telling us how their own doctors touched them inappropriately while their parents were sitting in the room reading a magazine and not paying attention.
Forced affection is not respect. Respect is a mutual understanding between two people, regardless of age or position. Affection should also be mutual, and adults should respect a child’s right to engage in affection when they’re ready and willing, not because we think they should or because we know that our intentions are good.
And vice versa, our children should not be forcing someone else to take a kiss, a hug, or be touched/tickled. If someone says no, pushes or runs away, or seems uncomfortable – they need to stop and give that person space. We all deserve to have our personal space respected.
Sections on this page have been adapted from TheMamaBearEffect