Dr. Courtney Knapp

Child & Adolescent Psychologist Serving Orange County, California

Keeping Children Safe

Most of us are familiar with the “stranger danger” campaign which was designed to protect children from sexual abuse.  At a recent family gathering, it was discussed how newer campaigns are not only focusing on the threat that strangers pose but also being aware that someone close to the child can be a threat. I like this shift in thinking because statistically speaking the majority of abuse survivors were abused by someone they know such as a family member, family friend, or neighbor.  A great article from Katia Hetter on CNN discusses this topic. It stresses the importance of not making your child hug or kiss a relative unless they want to.  We do not own our children’s bodies so when we say “Go give grandma a kiss goodbye” that is putting us in charge of something we shouldn’t be.  Katia writes: “She has to be polite when greeting people, whether she knows them or not. When family and friends greet us, I give her the option of ‘a hug or a high-five.’ Since she’s been watching adults greet each other with a handshake, she sometimes offers that option”.  I think that it is important for children to learn manners and social skills through modeling from adults but at the end of the day I do not believe that making the decision for the child to hug or kiss someone is the best way to teach children how to be polite. As the article points out it may actually be harmful for the child’s well-being as they may start to believe that one needs to be physically affectionate to please others.  

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