The Girl Scouts of America is encouraging parents, ahead of the holiday season, not to force their daughters to hug relatives at family gatherings.
The organization posted a “reminder” article online addressing the issue.
“Have you ever insisted, ‘Uncle just got here—go give him a big hug,’” the article, posted on the Girl Scouts’ website under “Raise a Happy Girl,” reads, reminding parents of moments when they’ve encouraged or forced their daughters to hug or kiss relatives when the child doesn’t want to.
They say it is important to avoid early conditioning in young girls that they “owe” physical affection to someone else.
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“Think of it this way,” the post says, “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.”
Girl Scouts developmental psychologist Andrea Bastiani Archibald says that it’s not just about physical boundaries, but also about teaching consent.
“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,” she said.
Actress Amber Tamblyn praised the article on Twitter, saying, “Thank you @girlscouts for this. Our daughters owe no one hugs, smiles or kisses and we should start teaching them this young.”
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According to data from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 34% of child abuse victims are related to the perpetrator. One in nine girls and one in 53 boys under 18 face sexual assault by an adult. Child Protective Services says that in 2013, 47,000 men and 5,000 women were sexual abusers toward children, both boys and girls.
The Girl Scouts write that the guidance isn’t allowance for the child to be rude, just a way to encourage alternate ways to show others appreciation without the necessity of physical contact.
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