When River was younger, we had no specific rules when in came to affection. Like most things, we just went with it. As both River and Oak have grown, and the way they’ve shown us and their friends their love, our conversations have shifted to work with their stages of life.
Here are just a few boundaries we’ve developed that seem to be working:
1. We ask for hugs and kisses. Hugs and kisses aren’t required for family or friends. If we would like one, we ask.
2. Apologize and ask again. Sometimes I forget while we are playing, and then quickly correct myself. It’s important that they know they always have a choice, and that they have to offer others the choice as well (though we make it clear, mommy and daddy are always open and ready for kisses as long as we aren’t sick).
3. My body. Your body. We started this conversation years ago, when River had a friend that often found it hard to assess boundaries. By giving children statements like, “My body is my body, and your body is your body,” they’re able to articulate requirements. No matter if it’s a friend, family member, or stranger, awareness and articulation is key.
4. Real kissing is for families. If kindergarten has taught me anything, it’s that I should never underestimate the conversations that are being had away from adult ears. Naturally, there comes a time where kissing a crush seems like a good idea. For now, centering conversations around “families” and “grown ups” and not so much the layered definition and variations of love, has been perfect.
5. Don’t kill curiosity. Keep conversation. I want my children to always feel safe coming to me with whatever they feel they need to. My goal is to never embarrass them, and to always be open to explaining everything, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.