I Know You Want to Hug the Baby, but Let’s Ask Him First

20160918_171107The holiday season is upon us, and with that comes a series of festive gatherings. If your family or group of friends is anything like mine, you’ve already been to some holiday parties and still have other family gatherings ahead of you. This is our first holiday season as a family of three, and my husband and I are looking forward to watching Nash devour Christmas dinner and tackle his presents (or at least the boxes they come in).

This season is also the time of year when we have to have the tough but important conversation with both Nash and our family members about healthy body boundaries.

As Nash grows, he needs to know that it’s OK for him to not want to hug or kiss the adults who care about him—parents, teachers, extended family, and beyond—even if they try to do so. When Nash says he doesn’t want that hug or kiss and we as adults respect his decision, we’re teaching Nash that he has the right to refuse unwanted touches. It also teaches him that the same is true for others. If someone ever tries to approach Nash in an inappropriate way, he will feel more comfortable telling that person no and telling me or his dad about the incident. This is one of the ways that we’re keeping Nash safe from abuse.

This is, of course, harder than it sounds. The family wants to hug the sweet, smiling baby, and Nash loves the attention. For now, Nash is too young to tell us that he doesn’t want to be touched, but his dad and I already practice asking him. When someone wants to hold him, we’ll say “Nash, do you want to go see Grammy/Auntie/your cousin?” If he acts shy and clings to me or his dad, we’ll hang on to him and see if he wants to visit that relative later.

It will be hard to tell the relatives we love that they can’t give Nash a kiss, especially as he grows into a toddler and the answer to every question you ask him is “no.” But there are other ways for the family to show their affection toward Nash—like waves, kind words, blowing kisses, and high fives—and we hope that our family members will understand their role in keeping Nash safe.

Need tips on how to have this conversation with your family members? Learn more here. And the Face It® Movement to end child abuse has published 10 additional safety tips for the holiday season.

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