Girl Scouts Release PSA To Remind Parents That Children Should Consent To Hugs — Even During The Holidays

"The lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries, and expecting them to be respected, last a lifetime."

With the holidays quickly approaching, many of us will be spending time with family, friends, and acquaintances. The children in our lives may or may not know these people very well, so it's important parents recognize how to make their interactions with them comfortable. That's why Girl Scouts released an important reminder about teaching daughters about consent and physical affection. While the PSA was directed toward parents of girls, their advice is also valuable for those who have boys.

In the PSA titled "Reminder: She Doesn't Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays," the organization lays out why you shouldn't insist that your child show physical affection to a family member or friend. Of course, parents mean well when they encourage their children to hug or kiss to greet someone or thank them, but they may want to rethink this behavior. 


"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? If yes, you might want to reconsider the urge to do that in the future," the PSA on the Girl Scouts website reads. "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." 

Regardless of how old your child is, it's important to teach them bodily autonomy. Children should be taught that everyone is in charge of their own bodies and that it's not OK to touch another person when they don't want to be touched. Affection should be freely given. No one owes anyone else a hug, kiss, or any other physical affection. 

Alliance / Shutterstock

"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, and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older," Girl Scouts' developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald wrote in the PSA. "Plus, sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help."

There are plenty of other ways kids can show their appreciation for others, or greet them, if they don't want physical contact. Girl Scouts recommends that parents "give your girl the space to decide when and how she wants to show affection." 

"Saying how much she's missed someone or 'thank you' with a smile, a high-five, or even an air kiss are all ways she can express herself, and it's important that she knows she gets to choose which feels most comfortable to her," the Girl Scouts' PSA states. 

Cover image via Jacob Lund / Shutterstock


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.