Girl Scouts: Daughters shouldn’t be forced to hug relatives for holidays

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Amid the long list of sexual harassment and sexual abuse allegations popping up in Hollywood and across the nation, the Girl Scouts organization has a message for parents this holiday season: don’t force your daughters to hug relatives or family friends during the holidays.

According to a release posted on the Girl Scouts website, although it seems like an innocent lesson in manners, forcing your children to hug someone when they don’t want to can send the wrong idea about consent and physical affection:

Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she “owes” another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.

“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. 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.”

Many children will want to hug their relatives, and that’s a good thing, according to the Girl Scouts.

“But if your daughter is reticent, don’t force her.”