Holiday time is coming up. Time for family, love, cheer otherwise known as time for stressing out and drinking ourselves to oblivion with spiked egg nog! But how is being stressed new to any mom? We deal with stress all day long, we got this covered.
Holidays aren’t just stressful for us adults, they are stressful for our kids too! Yes it is fun to see cousins their age and play with other kids, but don’t forget, they are bombarded with just as many different personalities as you are in having to deal with extended family visits. They will need just as much love and understanding to adjust to having cousin Bobby pull hair or great cousin Sally punching them when no one is looking. Even if the kids are perfectly behaved ...(C’mon, if you can’t expect your crazy Uncle to behave, how can you expect more from your kids than an adult?) ... they still have the stress of getting along with and learning how to interact with kids they normally aren’t around. Don’t get me wrong: socialization is GREAT for them and I am all for it! They need to learn how to get along with others. What our family does is make sure that we don’t put any extra stress on our kids … and what I am about to say a lot of people don’t like so brace yourself.
I do not make my kids hug or be loving to adult relatives. No they do not have to sit on Auntie’s lap or run give Great Grandma a hug.
Before you judge, think back to when you were a kid ... having these strange people who you rarely see, who are twice your size, reaching in to pinch your cheeks and squeeze you with a hug tighter than your parents give (not to mention when you are a kid, perfume and cologne make adults smell funny so even their very nearness offends your olfactory senses). Did you like it? Did it MAKE YOU LOVE THEM MORE? NO! In fact, it probably made you dread having to see them!
So here it is from an animal trainer standpoint. You want the kids to like and enjoy their family? Let them develop the relationship on their own. Don’t force them to hug or hang out with family who they don’t really know (this includes babies, if they cry when being held, take them away for God’s sake, that is their only way of telling you they are scared). All you will build is resentment, not excitement. If you allow your kids the space to take their time to build a bond, it will be a rewarding bond they appreciate and one where they get excited and enjoy seeing their family. If you make them uncomfortable, they will not want to do it again. That being uncomfortable is turning hainging out with that relative into a punishment, not a reward. It may be difficult to explain to Aunt Myrna who never gets to see the kids that it is better in the long run, but you are the parent, you don’t have to convince them, you make the rules for your kids and whether others agree or not, that is your choice to make. And for those of you who are wondering, yes, even my Dad was not able to hold my oldest kiddo until he was comfortable with it – and those two have developed a wonderfully close relationship.
Now for the little extra lesson that your kids will learn: They have control over their body and are allowed to say NO!
Having to be forced to hug or show affection to people who they don’t want breaks a kiddo’s natural barriers and makes them feel like they can’t say no when they are uncomfortable. As much as I hate to think about these things, not all people are good. Not all teachers, not all coaches, not all family friends … not even all family members are safe, and many times abusers are someone a parent thought they could trust. If my child is uncomfortable, I want them to know that I will support them in standing up for themselves and that they are allowed to say NO!
So next time they don’t want to give scary Uncle Charlie a hug, do you really want to force them and teach them you expect them to have physical contact with adults even though they are uncomfortable? I expect my child to be polite and say, “Hi,” or “Hello,” but if they don’t want to be held or hugged by someone who they are not comfortable with, they don’t have to.
Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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