Suffering through unwanted touch is not true affection.

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April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. As part of our global efforts to help protect kids from abuse, bullying, and other harmful behavior, each day this month, we will share a time-tested skill from our Kidpower® 30-Skill-Challenge Coaching Handbook.

Skill #24: How to Redirect Unwanted Affection. Sometimes caring family members or family friends love give big hugs, cheek pinches, or sloppy kisses that the kids hate – or that they used to like, but don’t as they get older. Well-meaning people may be hurt, surprised, or even angry when they are told to stop. By redirecting unwanted affection,kids can show they care to family and friends, while still setting their boundaries. This fun role-play gives kids practice on how to stop a cheek-pinching older relative.

This full practice is a part of the Kidpower® 30-Skill-Challenge Coaching Handbook.

You can redirect unwanted affection in a kind way.

Even if you love someone, you don’t have to just suffer through having your cheeks pinched, patted, or cupped.

Sometimes caring family members or family friends love to give big hugs or cheek pinches or wet kisses that the kids (and maybe adults too!) hate. Or used to like, but don’t as they get bigger. People may be hurt, surprised or angry when they are told to stop, but most of the time once they understand it is truly bothering someone they will stop.

Negotiating boundaries can be hard and children need support from trusted adults to help them to set clear boundaries. Caring adults also need to help enforce the boundaries kids set if other adults in their lives are having trouble listening.

You can practice redirecting unwanted affection by having the child sit down in front of you. Pretend to be a kind relative or family friend who sometimes has trouble listening to boundaries – maybe someone who loves to give sloppy kisses, pinch cheeks, give huge hugs, etc. Pretend to be wanting to give the child a big hug or pinch their cheeks (but don’t actually do so!) and have the child stand up when they see you, put their hands in front of them with straight arms and grab your hands together (like a two handed handshake) and say, “Oh it is so nice to see you! Let’s go get something to eat.”

You can say, “But, where is my hug (kiss, etc.)? Coach the child to say, “I don’t feel like one today. Let’s go look at the pictures from our trip (or this cool thing I made at school or …).

If the person doesn’t stop after you redirect them then it is a good time to set clear boundaries (such as the ones we have already practiced) and say, “Please stop.”

For a FREE explanation on the simple methods you can use to teach children to use each of these skills, download the Kidpower® 30-Skill-Challenge Coaching Handbook on our website –this ebook will be FREE of charge in English, Spanish, and Arabic in honor of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Please share this skill with others. Let’s work together to teach young people to take charge of their safety, increase self-confidence, and develop healthy, positive relationships!


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Published: April 24, 2019   |   Last Updated: April 24, 2019

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.