The Girl Scouts of America have released a statement urging parents not to force their daughters to hug anyone during the Holiday season, including relatives. The statement tells parents that they should never make their daughter physically interact with anyone they don’t want to, as that can lead to your daughter getting “the wrong idea about consent and physical affection.”
While making your kid hug a grandparent or aunt that they haven’t seen in a while might not seem like a huge deal to many, the Girl Scouts insist that it is a dangerous practice that is unfair to children. The statement explains that “telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.”
Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald further expanded on the potential harm a parent can do when they don’t give their child the ability to consent when it comes to holiday hugs. She reiterated the earlier points while also noting that “sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”
While the statement makes it clear that a parent should never make their child hug a relative against their will, the Girl Scouts don’t want parents thinking this gives children “a license to be rude” to relatives they don’t want to hug. Instead, the organization encourages parents to talk to their kids and figure out ways for them to show affection that are more in their comfort zone, including high fives, air kisses, or even just a smile.