Girl Scouts USA officials have shared a reminder to parents that they shouldn’t make their daughters show affection to relatives this Christmas.
The organisation tweeted the reminder earlier this week with the caption: “Forced affection = Not O.K.”
They also shared a link to an article published on their website titled: ‘Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not even at the Holidays.’
“Holidays and family get-togethers are a time for yummy food, sweet traditions, funny stories, and lots and lots of love. But they could, without you even realising it, also be a time when your daughter gets the wrong idea about consent and physical affection,” the article starts.
It goes on give some examples of the type of affection they are referring too, including hugging relatives.
“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? If yes, you might want to reconsider the urge to do that in the future.”
Though the article is discussing forced affection when it comes to family, the organisation says this could lead girls to question whether or not they might “owe” others physical affection when they do something nice for them in the future.
“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald.
“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.
Bastiani goes on to say that teaching children about consent early on can help them understand their rights and when lines are being crossed, as well as teaching them when they should seek help.
But instead of a blanket ban on family affection, the organisation wants to encourage parents to decide how and when they would like to show affection.
“Of course, many children may naturally want to hug and kiss family members, friends, and neighbours, and that’s lovely—but if your daughter is reticent, consider letting her choose what to do,” it suggests.
The article also cites some other examples of giving non-physical affection to show appreciation.
“Saying how much she’s missed someone or thank you with a smile, a high-five, or even an air kiss are all ways she can express herself, and it’s important that she knows she gets to choose which feels most comfortable to her,” Girl Scouts says.
Since sharing the advice, people have headed to social media to share their opinions on the topic.
Some have spoken out against the words of warning.
It actually isn’t the first time the Girls Scouts has raised the issue of showing physical affection to relatives.
Back in 2017 the organisation sparked a debate among the parenting community about whether children should be made to hug their relatives at Christmas.