i don’t know if it is because so many of my clients are children, the new school year being only a month away, working through my own childhood trauma, being asked to be a godmother for the second time yesterday (which i am thrilled about) or a combination of the aforementioned, i have been gravitating towards writing about the little ones as of late. last week, my thought of the week was: normalize apologizing to children. it has gotten more traction on instagram than any post i have done the entire time i have had this blog. there have been so many conversations following the post that have been thought provoking and tugged at my heartstrings. i got messages from people saying that they truly felt seen – some for the very first time.
building on last week’s thought on things we should normalize with children, i saw this tweet from a doctor a few days ago that resonated with me – normalizing asking children for consent to touch them.
“normalize asking children for consent to touch them. whether it is a hug, a kiss, an arm rub. ask for consent. teach them from a young age that they have autonomy over their personal space and they have a right to be upset if it is violated.” -dr. setshwaelo
because of the field that i am in, it is absolutely normal for me to ask children for consent to touch them. if i have a client in distress and there is an incredibly emotional session, at the end of the session, i will ask: “would a hug be helpful or comforting to you in this moment?” – not only do i respect and honor whatever their decision is but my language makes it clear that the hug is about them and not about me. however, when i think back to my own childhood or what i see with many of the children i work with in their own families, that is not the case.
i cannot count how many times as a child i was instructed to hug someone whether it be an extended relative or a friend of my mom or dad. here’s the thing: not only is physical touch not one of my primary love languages, since i was a child, i have been someone that goes off of energy. if i really loved someone, i would likely initiate a hug. if i liked someone’s energy, i didn’t mind a hug. if i did not like their energy, a hug was not something i wanted to engage it. however, it did not always feel like a choice.
as i have gotten older and through education and practice, done a deeper dive into the field of psychology, i have thought a great deal about the impact of that along with the messages being sent to children early on about consent. a child does not owe someone a hug or any other kind of physical touch as a greeting. it does not matter if they are interacting family, friends of the family or an elder. this still applies even if the adult in their life values physical touch as their love language of choice. if the child does not, it is wrong to force them to do so. if we are teaching children to advocate for themselves as they grow up, shouldn’t that start early on and at home? and if it is in fact starting at home, that means that parents should back their children up if they express not wanting to be touched by someone even if it is someone the parents trust.
i am incredibly interested in thoughts on this along with experiences you’d like to share on the topic. write below or feel free to privately message me depending on the nature of your response.