Dear Annie: I have a question about forced touching. Let’s say an 8-year-old doesn’t want to hug her uncle or give Grandma a kiss. Do you force the kid to do it? Do you badger, threaten and make a fuss?
I’m wondering about this because if you tell your kid, “You have to give this person a hug” or “You have to shake their hand,” aren’t you teaching the kid that their body doesn’t belong to them? If you force your kid to allow others to put their hands on your kid’s body, how will they know when they shouldn’t be touched at all?
I hear all these people coming forward to say they were molested as kids by uncles, grandparents and other relatives, and that they didn’t say anything because they were taught that an adult could touch them at will. – New York
Dear New York: No child should be forced to hug, kiss or even touch another person, even a relative. You certainly can encourage or suggest that she “give Grandma a kiss goodbye,” but nothing more than that. If the child balks, don’t push or express displeasure. Leave it alone. Some kids are naturally reluctant to display that type of affection, and it has nothing to do with molestation. Kids who are forced to hug Aunt Jane, whose breath reeks and who tends to pinch their cheeks, will not be endearing her to them. And yes, kids who think they must permit adults to touch them are more likely to remain quiet if they are molested.