What to Do When Your Kids Don’t Want Hugs and Kisses at Holiday Parties

It’s the Christmas season! Everyone is looking forward to spending holiday celebrations with family. Your relatives are most especially excited to see your kids after such a long time, and are just giddy at the fact that they finally get to give them big hugs. But, wait! Ever notice your kids squirming away from a tight embrace? When we were children, we were also told to give our elders a hug or kiss because it is the polite thing to do even if it wasn’t the most comfortable for us. Now that you’re parents yourselves, this could be the chance for you to teach your little ones that it’s okay to say ‘No’ to hugs and kisses if they don’t like being touched in this way.

Being around loved ones is obviously a safe environment, but it’s not a bad idea to instill consent in your kids and the value of saying no to physical touch even around relatives. Here are some of our thoughts on probable questions you have about creating a culture of consent during the holidays. Read on and tell us what you think!

What to Do When Your Kids Don't Want Hugs and Kisses at Holiday Parties

(LAYOUT) How Can Kids Show Affection Other Than Hugs and Kisses?
There are many ways to show affection and to express our greetings such as a smile and a wave or even a high-five and a fist bump. You can also teach them the Filipino practice of “mano po” especially towards grandparents. Another good option is to ask them, “How would you like to greet your Lolo and Lola?” Giving your child options sows the idea that they have the power to decide how they want to be touched. They might not realize it fully yet, but they will surely appreciate this life lesson when they get older.

(LAYOUT) What Should I Say to Our Relatives? What If They Think My Child Is Being Rude?
Kids aren’t trying to be rude on purpose. They just might be hesitant to approach people they’re not familiar with or don’t see very often. Speak up for your kids and tell your relatives that the safety and comfort of your child comes first. If they don’t want to give Tito and Tita a hug or kiss, it would be best not to force them. When kids say no to touching, they deserve to be respected.

(LAYOUT) Should I Refuse If Relatives Want to Carry My Baby?
This is still your decision, Moms and Dads. We all know that babies aren’t vocal yet, but sometimes they non-verbally express their emotions. Some babies don’t like being separated from their Moms, and tend to cry if they’re on someone else’s lap. In these situations, it might be better to not pass your baby from one relative to another. We all would love to hold our adorable little pamangkins and inaanaks, but if they turn away or fuss, we should respect how they feel. If your baby is feeling sociable and doesn’t mind being carried by her Ninongs and Ninangs, then why not?

(LAYOUT) How Do I Teach My Young Child About Healthy Boundaries?
If your child is at least old enough to understand, you can talk to them about when it is okay to be touched such as while crossing the street or during bath time supervised by Mom or Dad. Teach them the words “No” and “Stop,” so they know how to say it whenever they don’t want to be kissed or hugged. In the same way, this practice could also teach them to listen to others when they hear “No” or “Stop.”

As the parents, your loved ones would be able to understand the boundaries you help set for your kids. Creating a culture of consent doesn’t mean restricting your relatives from ever showing affection towards your kids. It simply means that, as adults, we recognize that kids are human beings just like us and they deserve to be treated with respect, too, especially when it comes to their bodies.


Kinsner, Kathy. High five or hug? Teaching toddlers about consent. 7 November 2019.
Heid, Joyce. Kids and Consent at the Holidays. 12 December 2018.
Brown, Maressa. How to Teach Your Child About Consent from Birth.

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