Girl Scouts of America warn: don't force your daughters to hug relatives

By Michelle McGlynn

The decision by the Girl Scouts of America urging parents not to encourage their daughters to hug relatives during the festive period has sparked widespread controversy.

Ahead of US Thanksgiving celebrations this Thursday, the organisation has published a divisive article about consent and physical affection.

Their advice? "Don’t force your daughter to hug a relative."

"Have you ever insisted, ’Uncle just got here - go give him a big hug!’ or ’Auntie gave you that nice toy, go give her a kiss,’ when you were worried your child might not offer affection on her own?", the blog post asks.

If so, they say that you could be giving your daughter "the wrong idea about consent and physical affection".

"Think of it this way, 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 when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life," advises the organisation.

Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald says that it is important to begin teaching the notion of consent at a young age because "the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older."

Dr Archibald also says that it can help a child to protect themselves from predators as it helps them to understand their rights, know when a line has been crossed and when to ask for help.

The organisation is not saying that you should prevent your daughter from giving a relative a hug if they choose to do so, rather not to force them if they are unwilling or hesitant on their own.

They go on to offer suggestions for other ways that your child can show their appreciation including saying thank you "with a smile, a high-five, or even an air kiss".

The advice has received mixed reactions since it was published online.

You can read the full blog post here.

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