Recently a relative described my 3 year old as “cold”.
Because she did not interact in the way that a relative believed she should. She did not want to be hugged and kissed by them. She had not seen this relative for months, nor did she have a particularly special bond. Nor does my child like being particularly cuddly with anyone apart from myself and my partner.
My child should not need to have me justifying her needs not to be constantly expected to hug, cuddle, kiss or even be touched by others. She has always shown great dislike for this and is clearly upset by the poking and prodding to “give me a kiss” or “just a hug goodbye”.
I feel like at times I’m in defence mode trying to deflect others and shield her as much as I can from her discomfort from others intrusions. At the same time I’m seen as the person who is putting myself between her and the people intruding. I’m seen as the annoying over bearing parent. Sometimes I feel like I have failed my child by not being more forthright. These are adults after all. These are the people that should know better.
I wish people would understand that No Child owes them affection, for anything. Full stop.
I wish people could learn the following.
No child should feel intruded upon and have their personal space not respected. Honestly, if a child looks distressed or upset because you “must have a hug”, then pull your head in. Think about how uncomfortable this is for someone small to have a large person demanding they give them physical affection. Reverse the scenario, put yourself in their shoes.
No child is trying to hurt you or is making a personal statement about their feelings towards you. If a child doesn’t want you to hug them, don’t take it personally. Get a grip.
We should want children to speak out about their body, to confidently say when they don’t want people to touch them or they don’t want a hug. This is so they can learn about advocating their wishes for bodily autonomy and how people respecting this should listen. We should be listening and respecting their words or actions. Compliancy and obedience around physical affection are obviously dangerous when we think of risks of sexual abuse.
Some autistic children find hugging uncomfortable and even painful. This should be kept in mind.
If children don’t want your physical affection and you continually ignore this, you are creating a relationship that makes them uncomfortable. You are making your needs for affection more important than their needs for comfort and trusting that this adult in their life listens to them. And you are asking to be that awful adult in their life many of us remember from childhood that made us feel uncomfortable. Don’t be that person.