Kids refusing to hug grandparents? This is how you should react

Do you feel uncomfortable every time your kid vehemently refuses to give a hug or a kiss to the grandparents? This is what you’ve got to do.

 A grandfather kisses his grandson, a toddler, on the forehead. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A grandfather kisses his grandson, a toddler, on the forehead.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Grandpa and grandma spent a whole afternoon with your kids and now they’re leaving. They expect hugs but the kids aren’t interested. This makes you feel really uncomfortable. Is this situation familiar? If so, keep reading. 

Zamira Kimchi, an instructor who coaches parents and children in development and supportive communication and who teaches baby massage and development emphasizes that it isn’t kids who need to be taught a lesson, but those around them. When toddlers are taught that their body is theirs and they can decide who touches them, this is true in any situation including refusing to hug family members. Children don’t instinctively know that other people besides their parents are safe and they can hug them. 

Here’s what you shouldn’t do

If you urge kids to “go hug grandma,” this will contradict what’s taught to kids about deciding about their bodies, and may cause them to act out. Some kids may feel that their refusal triggers something in everyone around them and they’ll enjoy the attention around their refusal.

 A grandfather hugs his grandchild, a young kid (Illustrative) (credit: PIXABAY) A grandfather hugs his grandchild, a young kid (Illustrative) (credit: PIXABAY)

What should you do?

"Educate" those around you. Sensitively explain to the grandparents that they should respect and understand the child’s will and support your approach. You may tell them in the presence of the child or ask them to say sentences like "It's okay, when you feel safe come to hug Grandpa," "Grandma is always here for you whenever you feel like hugging," and the like. This way kids learn that they can choose to reach out and hug when it suits them.

If a grandparent is insulted, explain to them that your kids aren’t intentionally being rude and they don’t understand that their behavior is insulting. Emphasize to them that if they allow kids time to decide to hug and kiss, they’ll eventually do so.

This article was written for Walla! in partnership with the JAMA parenting app.