I am a hugger.  One of my foster kids taught me that not all want hugs and that hugs can hurt.  She was pretty, almost sixteen, and had been much abused.  I think she had been made to have sex with men as part of a ring of child abusers.  The first time I spontaneously reached out to hug her, she froze.  I can still feel her pain.  So I learned to always ask, “Can I have a hug?” I also learned to be aware that some say “Yes” when they mean “No.”

I found this an interesting article but very unclear on the promise of the title: How to Comfort a Family Member – Families Who Don’t Hug – Oprah.com.

The other side of the coin came as a therapist.  My boss commanded me not to hug.  I chose to disobey.  How when a kid is hurling themselves at you can you not hug?

There does come a time when most kids who loved hugs as a young child, no longer want to be hugged. Be attuned to this and don’t insist. The reasons are many and complex, mainly having to do with growing awareness of sexual feelings.

What is a parent to do?

 Here are my rules.

First rule: If someone clearly wants a hug, do your best to be open to that.  If you aren’t, acknowledge that you aren’t a very good hugger.  “We didn’t do that in my family, so I am still trying to learn” might work.

Second Rule: When you want to give a hug, always ask first and make it clear you expect to honor their feelings.

Instead of a hug, the best way I have found to be there for the person is to say, “I care and want to help. What do you need from me?”

Usually the answer will be something you can do.  When it isn’t say, “I can’t do that, I wish I could but I can’t.  How else can I help?”

Stay strong and keep caring.

Katherine [Artwork by Defies]

6 responses to “WHEN A HUG WON’T WORK

  1. I find it’s better just to wait and let the child hug you first. If they are comfortable giving a hug then they are probably comfortable enough to receive one. Physical touch is a very personal and sensitive issue so when it comes to children, especially those who may have been abused or neglected, it is better to let them lead you rather than you indulge your own sense of “right”. Just because we are the adult doesn’t mean we have all the right answers so it’s better to be reserved and let the child make the first move. Also be very aware of body language. Crossed arms are a dead giveaway!!

    • You are right on and my boss was wrong to say don’t hug a child who wants to hug you. For some children hugs outside the family might be the better hugs, but as you say with attention to the child’s needs. Thank you for oommenting.

  2. Presbyterians are not allowed to go around hugging people. In Sunday school they said if anything makes you smile or happy it must be a sin. However, you are allowed to hug your wife. Upstairs. Door locked. Shades pulled down. Lights dimmed. No music. Between 8PM and 10:30 PM.Then you have to find something to work on. Work gets you saved and to heaven. But it does not matter how much you work because salvation is by grace alone. But you should still be working all the time anyway. Yuck. That stinking Calvin.

  3. Thank you Carl. When I first strayed from the family agnosicism and got religion, I joined the local Presbyterian Church. Why that one? Because all my friends went there. That same church turned me off to religion for the way they treated my best friend who decided she could not place her out-wedlock-child for adoption. Didn’t seem very “Christian” to me.

    Moreover, grace couldn’t be gotten by you, it was bestowed and you either were predestined to get it or face the fiery furnace.

  4. I really was just being a little humorous but this faith does breed cold and austere people in many cases.

  5. All faiths have a problem or two. Holier than thou seems to be one that people carry with them into a faith and then feel even more superior. Particularly if not preached against.

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