Holiday Hugs: Teaching Children About Consent

As the holiday times are vastly approaching, your child will be surrounded by many faces, some old and some new. Although we as parents may be familiar with the company that arrives during this time, our children might not be.

We offer smiles and hugs to welcome friends and family as they come and go. While this is normal for us and we do it almost unconsciously, this holiday social behavior is new to our young children and the many people they see during the holiday time can be quite stressful for them. In this post, I’m going to offer you techniques to implement when teaching children consent, and how to react when they refuse to give hugs to or be held by family and friends.


Using these techniques can help children understand that they do not always have to give people hugs. Most importantly, it teaches them that they should be asked first if they want a hug and that they can decline if they don’t want a hug.

Don’t Show Disappointment

Rather our child declines the hug gently or with much passion, be sure not to show disappointment. Although it might be quite disappointing to see our child not want to hug their aunt or uncle or our high school best friend we must remember that our child is able to make choices of their own and they need not be required to greet everyone with a hug.

Respond with Compassion and Acceptance

No matter their reason, we should always respond with compassion and acceptance. Here is a great way to respond when they decline. “You don’t want to hug ____ right now, and that’s okay. You can say hi or wave if that feels more comfortable.” You can stop at the first sentence, but if you want to offer additional ways to greet someone you can continue with the second sentence. Pointing out that your child doesn’t want to hug someone and that it’s acceptable helps reassure them. Giving them, additional options help them still learn about acceptable social behaviors in a non-forceful way.

Move On…Don’t Spend Too Much Time On It

After responding to your child’s decline, move on. You don’t want to spend much time on the situation, trying to force them to hug or even scolding them for not doing so isn’t beneficial.

You might enjoy reading: Reducing Our Children’s Dependency on Technology

Interact Naturally and Model Appropriate Behavior

Continue to interact with the person as normal. If you usually offer hugs, do so. Proceed with regular interactions. This helps your child feel comfortable and helps to not make a big deal out of it. Also, your child will start to feel more comfortable as they see you interact with others. It’s probably a no-brainer but our children are always watching us, and they can pick up on our ques. Showing your child how you trust and interact with others will help them trust and interact with others.

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