Girl Scouts: Don’t force kids to hug relatives for holidays — it sends wrong message about consent

Girl Scouts: Don’t force kids to hug relatives for holidays — it sends wrong message about consent
Girl Scouts of the USA warn parents ahead of holiday season not to force their kids to hug relatives. The Girl Scouts said the article on the website was timely, "in light of recent news stories about sexual harassment." (Getty Images)

The Girl Scouts of the USA have a message for parents for the upcoming holiday season: Don’t force your kids to hug relatives if they just don’t want to.

Come again?

The Girl Scouts of the USA, in a recent blog post titled “Reminder: Your Daughter Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays,” discussed consent and how it applies to family gatherings during the holidays.

The nearly 400-word feature advises, “Have you ever insisted, ‘Uncle just got here – go give him a big hug!’ or ‘Auntie gave you that nice toy, go give her a kiss,’ when you were worried your child might not offer affection on her own? yes, you might want to reconsider the urge to do that in the future.”

According to the writer, encouraging your child to show affection simply because they haven’t seen a particular relative in a while could later “set the stage for her questioning” whether or not she owes those in her life affection simply on the grounds that they did something for her — like buy her dinner.

Girl Scouts developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald said, “The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children.”

“But the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime, and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older,” Archibald noted.

“Plus, 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,” she added.

To avoid being perceived as rude, the article offered alternate suggestions to show affection or appreciation of family members, such as high-fives, smiles, or even an “air kiss.”

Why now?

In a statement to ABC News, the Girl Scouts of the USA revealed that the article on the website was timely, “in light of recent news stories about sexual harassment.”

“Girl Scouts of the USA offers advice to girls’ parents and families (including those of current Girl Scouts) on how to talk to their daughters about issues in the larger world that they hear about or that directly affect them,” the statement read. “Given our expertise in healthy relationship development for girls, and in light of recent news stories about sexual harassment, we are proud to provide girls’ parents and caregivers with age-appropriate guidance to use when discussing this sensitive matter and other challenging topics, should they wish to do so.”

The statement added, “Obviously, our advice will not apply in all situations, and we recognize that parents and caregivers are in the best position to judge which conversations they should have with their girls.”

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