It’s never too early to start establishing healthy personal boundaries, and by teaching children about personal space when they’re young, you can help them develop the confidence and assurance they need to stand up for themselves in the future.
Don’t Force Affection
The best way to begin teaching children personal space boundaries is by making affection optional. Children know that they shouldn’t hit, but it’s important they understand that even things that feel good require consent. Methods to instill politeness could include having your child write thank-you cards or verbally thanking someone when they do something kind. However, it should never require hugs or other forms of physical affection.
Offer Alternatives to Hugs & Kisses
While well-meaning parents and family members might request hugs and kisses from your children, it’s important to teach kids that they never have to do anything they aren’t comfortable with. If you notice reluctance, offer your child an alternative such as a high five, a fist bump, or a blown kiss.
Have a Talk With Family Members
Especially when they live out of town and don’t get to see your children as often as they’d like, family members might express sadness about missing out on affection when a child refuses. This might mean some tough conversations with family members, but if you explain to them your desire to empower your children to make decisions about their own bodies, adults should be able to deal with the rejection. Explain to them that while you know their intentions are good, this could help keep your child safe from people who might hurt them in the future.
Get in the Habit of Asking Permission
Make a practice out of requesting permission before hugging, kissing, or snuggling with your child. In turn, suggest that they do the same with their siblings and friends. This will help them internalize the idea that everyone has power over their own body.
Keeping your kids safe can feel like a full-time job, but it’s the most important one you have. Helping establish healthy personal boundaries is the first step toward teaching consent to kids, and it can have a lasting impact on their life. At Woodburn Pediatrics, we offer an array of pediatric services ranging from general pediatrics to mental health. Plus, we work hard to provide a wide range of parenting information and advice on our Health Education Blog. Check it out today!