The Girl Scouts have issued a statement telling parents that their daughters should not feel obligated to hug anyone for the holidays.
As accusations of sexual assault and harassment continue to roil the U.S. political and entertainment scenes, the Girl Scouts have published an article with a headline that reads: "Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays."
The Girl Scouts suggest using smiling, words, an air kiss or a high-five as substitutes for hugs. They also provided some consultation from Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald.
“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children, but the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime, and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older," Dr. Archibald said. "Plus, sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”
Reactions to the article were mixed. While some parents thought the Girl Scouts had the right idea, others felt it should be up to the children and what they feel comfortable with.
"It's 50-50," Lester Coleman told KTRK. "You should know your family members and what they do."
"I think it's good advice because we've never pushed that on our kids anyways," Jean Harris added. "I think it should be genuine. If they don't feel like hugging, don't hug."
"Prep your parents ahead of time," Shannon Thorne said. "Tell them, my children are not going to give you a hug if they don't feel comfortable, and giving them the option of a high five, fist bump."
"I think it should be for everyone," Thorne continued. "Any child, any age. I don't think it's really appropriate to force them because what message are we sending?"
The organization has since issued a statement on the matter:
Girl Scouts of the USA offers advice to girls' parents/families (including those of current Girl Scouts) on how to talk to their daughters about issues in the larger world that they hear about or that directly affect them. Given our expertise in healthy relationship development for girls, and in light of recent news stories about sexual harassment, we are proud to provide girls' parents and caregivers with age-appropriate guidance to use when discussing this sensitive matter and other challenging topics, should they wish to do so. Obviously, our advice will not apply in all situations, and we recognize that parents and caregivers are in the best position to judge which conversations they should have with their girls.