By Sheryan Cancel
As a young Puerto Rican girl I was always taught to greet family members and friends with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Not only was this a greeting, but a sign of respect and affection. It was never taught to me that if I was uncomfortable or didn’t feel like it, I could simply say no. It was not until fairly recently, as an adult, that I realized how problematic this is.
Showing affection is not something that should be forced. Respect can be shown in other ways. Think of this, what are you teaching your child if you force them to hug their tio? What are you teaching your niece or nephew if you ask them to give you a kiss and after saying no, you say "I’ll give you candy"?
Children should be allowed to show affection to who they want and when they want to. It is not disrespectful to say no to kissing titi or tio, cousins, friends of the family, or abuela and abuelo. We should celebrate when children say no to unwanted interactions, it is a way for them to at an early age be aware that they are in charge of their own bodies. We need to let our children know that it is okay to not do something they are uncomfortable doing. Forcing interactions, even with family members, is unhealthy. It is necessary for parents, aunts, uncles etc. to create an environment where a child feels comfortable speaking up if there is something wrong.
I have to confess I am still learning and sometimes struggle myself. As the proud titi of a 2-year-old I love to hug and kiss her. When I arrive, I run to her and ask for a kiss and there are times she clearly says no to me or even walks away. I find it amazing that she can say no and am proud. To me this means if she is okay with saying no to me (her favorite titi) she can do the same with anyone else. On the other hand, I struggle because I am so ready to show her that titi loves her and she rejects me. You may think this is something small but teaching children boundaries and healthy relationships starts somewhere.
If you want to know more on how to start a conversation about healthy relationships and boundaries, feel free to contact SACS staff at 860-225-4681.
English Hotline: 888-999-5545 Spanish Hotline: 888-568-8332