NEW YORK: As the United States grapples with an avalanche of sexual assault and harassment scandals, the country’s Girl Scouts organization is giving parents stern advice before the holidays: don’t force your daughter to hug a relative.
Posted ahead of Thanksgiving on its website, the organization says holidays and family get-togethers “could, without you even realizing it, also be a time when your daughter gets the wrong idea about consent and physical affection.”
“Have you ever insisted, ‘Uncle just got here — go give him a big hug!’ or ‘Auntie gave you that nice toy, go give her a kiss,’ when you were worried your child might not offer affection on her own?
“If yes, you might want to reconsider the urge to do that in the future,” it says in a blog on its website, shared earlier this month on the organization’s Facebook page.
The advice comes as powerful men from Hollywood to politics have been shaken by allegations of sexual misconduct, disgracing the likes of mogul Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey, and sparking a national discourse about consent.
“Telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection,” it said.
Lessons girls learn when they are young about setting physical boundaries “last a lifetime, and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older,” said Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Andrea Bastiani Archibald.
“Plus, sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”
The organization offered parents tips on how daughters can express “appreciation, thankfulness and love” without physical contact.
“Saying how much she’s missed someone or thank you with a smile, a high-five, or even an air kiss are all ways she can express herself, and it’s important that she knows she gets to choose which feels most comfortable to her,” it said.
The Girl Scouts currently has a membership of 1.87 million girls and 800,000 adults. It did not immediately respond to an AFP request to comment.