Hugs are a positive and natural way to show expression.

How to Teach Appropriate Hugs to Kids

by Amanda Rumble

Your child just ran up to an elderly man in the grocery store and gave him a big hug, nearly toppling him over. He looks at you with an awkward expression on his face and walks away. It's time to teach your child how and to whom to give hugs. Hugs are mostly welcomed, especially by parents and other family members for everything from saying hello to "just because." Children do need to learn that it's not always appropriate to hug everyone they come into contact with to avoid upsetting or making someone feel uncomfortable.

1 Explain that hugs can either make someone smile and happy or make someone sad, depending on who he is hugging. Hug him and tell him that hugs are supposed to make you feel good and happy like he feels at that moment, but that sometimes people get sad when they are hugged. Explain that "wrong" hugs are those that make people uncomfortable.

2 Remind her of the incident last week when her older sister wouldn't share her toys and she got mad and didn't want to hug her. Tell her that she should never hug or accept hugs from anyone that she doesn't want to, including her sister and other adults, when she is upset. These also include teachers, friends and other acquaintances. Help her understand personal space by going outside to draw a big circle in chalk all around her as far as her arms can stretch. Let her know that she has personal space and so do other people, and it might not be acceptable to cross into someone else's space for a hug.

3 Bend down and wrap your arms around his upper body above or below his shoulders to show him how to hug appropriately so he will avoid making someone feel uncomfortable. Stress that he should not touch others in areas that may make them feel uncomfortable, such as the chest or any areas below the waist just like you talked about with personal space.

4 Hug your child frequently, not only to show her that you love her, but so she sees on a regular basis the appropriate way to hug someone. Explain that it's okay for her to hug and kiss Mommy or Daddy whenever she sees them and to show that she loves them, but it's not okay to do it at school or daycare to friends or teachers.

5 Contact the school or daycare that your child attends to learn about its policy about hugging and other forms of physical affection among students and with teachers. Some might allow it, but others have banned all forms of physical affection to avoid making someone feel uncomfortable or stepping over boundaries. Sit down with your child and show him the rules on paper. Explain that just like there are rules at home, such as picking up his toys, there are also rules he needs to follow when he goes to daycare.

Tip

  • Remember that learning about appropriate behavior is a process, and your child might not grasp the concept right away. Keep stressing the concepts until your child embraces them.

Photo Credits

  • Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images