15 Jan

Letterbalm Kissing LipsDear LetterBalm: My husband thinks it’s O.K. to make our two kids (age 7 and 9) hug and kiss relatives and friends to say hello or goodbye or goodnight when we gather with them. I think it isn’t right to force children to hug and kiss grownups, even if they are close to the family and known well. We have argued about this. Our kids are clearly reluctant to do it, and I don’t think we should make them. How can I convince my husband that he should back off and let them show affection for adults when they are comfortable?

–Not Kissing Cousins

Ms. L.B. remembers a distant relative, a feisty old-world Italian woman who was as caring as the day is long and a big hugger and kisser. Unfortunately, she was also severely hygienically challenged. Getting a hug and smooch from her brought tears to a young one’s eyes, and not the good kind. Insisting that your children hug and kiss adults isn’t in their best interests. One gentle “give Uncle John a kiss goodbye” should be all you say. If the kid doesn’t want to, don’t force the issue, and never criticize the child. Some kids are reluctant to show affection, and they should never be forced to do so. When your children aren’t around and you have your husband’s undivided attention, say this:

Ben, there’s something about the kids that is troubling me. You and I disagree about whether they should be required to hug and kiss our relatives and friends. Darling, I’m going to ask you not to force them. It makes the kids uncomfortable – and, the adults equally so. You’ve seen how everybody squirms, and there are hurt feelings and how unpleasant the moment is for everyone. Some children are natural huggers and kissers, and that’s O.K. Some aren’t – and, that’s O.K., too. Besides, I’m a little concerned that forcing them means that the kids don’t get a say in who can touch them. They have to be comfortable giving and receiving affection. The last thing we want to do is make them reluctant to tell us if, heaven forbid, any adult touches them improperly in any other circumstance. 


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