Let’s remember this, when we try to get our children to hug or open up or to be more social/outgoing.
I had some questions today come in regarding when/if it’s appropriate to encourage a child to hug a family member, to help them “come out of their shell” or “be less shy.” I responded that any sort of force, coercion or demand is still a violation of the child’s boundary. In fact, doing so often will initiate the opposite affect. We tend to micromanage our child’s behaviors, when behaviors are simply a form of communication. We can’t produce or extinguish any sort of behavior in this way long term. We don’t have that power, nor should we want it.
When a child feels safe, it is then that they are able to express themselves in social + emotional outlets. These ways will be unique to the child, and may still not meet your expectation of what affection or not being “shy” looks like. For me personally, I can relate —as physical affection isn’t always comforting. I don’t feel more loved or connected after a hug. I do however love deep conversations + handwritten cards.
Let’s remember our job: to support a child’s physical nervous system; helping them practice recovering from stressful states + reminding them OFTEN that they are accepted + loved AS IS. We must do our own work, reflecting on why we must place this judgment as “shy” being less than or needing altering? What bar or measure are we comparing our kids to? Who are we trying to please or impress? And lastly finding ways to express affection that suit + reaffirm our child, without asking them to abandon their true self.
Our children don’t need us to “help” them become more confident, outgoing or affectionate, they need us to trust their pace + accept them where they are at.
What is affection for you?