Awkwardness of forced holiday hugs

- Rounding up the children and relatives to visit to the zoo during this time of year is pretty much a Houston holiday tradition, and speaking of relatives,  should you force your children to hug family members they haven't seen in a while?  

Let's hear from adults first.

“Because family is family and it's polite," says Madison Medina, the mother of three children. "That's how I feel about it.”

“No, I don't," argues Becky Delaney. "I don't know. Were you forced as a child? I was and that's why I don’t do it.”

And now, let's hear from "the mouths of babes."

I asked three-year-old Grace, "Do you like hugging people over the holidays?”  

Grace replies, “Yeah.”

“Who do you like to hug the most?,” I followed up.

“God,” says Grace as a young boy grabbed her shoulder and said in her ear, “Grace, Grace! Say me!”

Perhaps the opinions of some older children. 

"I don't think so.” says one boy hesitantly.

“Sometimes, my relatives say come and give me a hug, but never have I been forced,” says another girl just as her sibling slips off the low wall, falls into a bush and breaks into laughter.

It was kind of funny but it's really not a laughing matter. Children may only see that uncle, aunt or grandparent once a year and a year is a long time for a young child, long enough for family to seem like strangers. Experts say in that case, forced hugging can actually be bad for children. Just ask psychologist Dr. Melissa Goldberg with the Children's Assessment Center.

"If they don't want to give hug to uncle or grandma that's fine," says Dr. Goldberg. "In doing that, they can make decisions about their own bodies. If they don't want to give a hug, they don’t have to."

Dr. Goldberg says a handshake or a fist bump might be more appropriate. And according to our unscientific poll, forcing children to be huggers can backfire. It seems to make them less likely to force their children to do it.

"Um, probably not because now I know how it feels, probably not," says Sylann Medina.

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