Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hugging Bans Should Be Banned

Be careful – your kids might be involved with …..extreme hugging! This is the dangerous and inappropriate behavior that school officials claim has no place in academic settings where hundreds of children are gathered together, for up to 8 hours a day. They are trying to keep their students safe during the school day, and apparently hugging ranks up there with weapons.

Yes – there are students in high school hallways who are hugging with a little more PDA than Grandma would want. However, when schools begin to forcibly ban a natural and scientifically proven healthy human interaction – physical contact – the problems are about the schools’ reactions more than anything. Schools are missing out on opportunities to teach children about appropriate behaviors.

Hugging Bans Enacted

We aren’t just talking about one school in one rural, conservative, or isolated community. This is happening in schools in America and overseas. Schools from Europe to the United States are joining the endeavor to ban physical contact between students. Some students have been threatened with detention and reprimanded, no matter what was the intention of the hug.

  • One school in Great Britain has banned hugging because it was “happening extensively and becoming the norm.”
  • Superintendent of the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District in New Jersey said that:
    “We have a responsibility to teach children about appropriate interactions and about having a structured, academically focused environment.”
  • Fossil Hills Middle School in Texas has banned hugging, along with what it declares are all other forms of PDA (Public Display of Affection), which includes holding hands.
  • In Illinois at the Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park, “extreme hugging” has been banned. This means that groups of students can’t greet each other with hugs in the hallways between classes because school officials say the hallways become congested.
  • In Virginia at the Kilmer Middle School the regulations go a step further. All physical contact between students is banned, including high fives.

Ban the Hugging Bans

You don’t teach a child how to behave appropriately by banning a natural interaction, and physical contact is an innate need in children – in people. In an article published in Psychology Today by Ray Williams, the case is made for the scientifically proven value of touch. People are physically and emotionally benefited through touch. Williams goes on to say that “research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.”

Yet schools are banning all forms of physical touch, when children are experiencing some of the most rapid and challenging growth periods in their lives. When you add on top of that the fact that some children are more inclined to truly respond to touch and need it, you are depriving them of the opportunity to be the best versions of themselves. In the book The five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman, Ph.D. and Ross Campbell, M.D., the first “love language” described is Physical Touch. It is one of the strongest ways that people express love, affection, and nurturing behaviors.

  • So many positive emotions and situations are disregarded when children aren’t allowed to express themselves through physical touch – compassion, empathy, sympathy, joy, contentment, and good old fashioned rough housing and friendship.
  • You don’t teach empathy by not allowing children to be trusted with handling their emotions and respecting the emotions of others. You teach it by being present in their daily lives, nurturing them, and helping them to understand the differences between appropriate and inappropriate.
  • Children use words that hurt every day. What is next – a ban on speaking? A ban on looking someone in the eyes (this can be intimidating for some people)? Just like we continually remind children to use kind and respectful words, we need to remind them how to use appropriate touch.
  • When do we wake up and realize that banning all things with the potential for disruption and inappropriateness doesn’t help develop conscious, empathetic, responsible, and independent children? Our children shouldn’t be treated like robots, segregated and stripped away of their individuality and personal needs.

Some of my kids are huggers and hanger-onners – needing physical contact when talking and sharing ideas. They’ve also learned that not everyone operates that way, so they try to be respectful of those differences. Teaching children to respect others doesn’t mean that we should take away a physical need they have, especially when we are expecting them to thrive as they are congested together for 8 hours each day, living and breathing as an educational family. I hope my kids continue to find ways to share their affection for others, their empathy, and their awareness of the world around them. We won’t be banning hugs in our home or our relationships. And we will not use a hug as a weapon by refusing to use an under-arm diffuser.

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