The Girl Scouts of America are advising parents around the nation to not make their children hug family members this holiday season if they do not want to.
The organization published a blog post earlier this week arguing that forcing a child to hug relatives and family friends during the holidays could stunt their idea of consent later in life.
“Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection when they have bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life,” reads the post on the Girl Scouts’ website.
The post, titled "Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays," has been shared nearly 7,000 times on Facebook so far.
The Girl Scouts also cited their own developmental psychologist, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, in telling parents why it’s important to talk about the concept of consent early in life.
“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," Archibald is quoted as saying. "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.”
This advice comes after the many recent sexual harassment allegations that have come forward in Hollywood and in politics this month.
One in nine girls under the age of 18 experiences sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult, according to data shared by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), an anti-sexual assault organization. Research also suggests that one-third of sexual abuse incidents dealing with a child is perpetrated by a family member.
The organization is encouraging parents to show their daughters new ways to show gratitude that do not require physical contact, including "a smile, a high-five, or even an air kiss."
The Girl Scouts’ membership includes 1.8 million girls, according to its website.