Q: Our seven-year-old is always hugging her classmates, whether they reciprocate or not. This was fine back in kindergarten, but now that she’s older, we’re worried it will alienate some of her friends. We hug her and say “I love you” daily, so we’re at a loss to explain why she constantly seeks affection.
A: Hugging classmates is still quite common at your daughter’s age and even among older kids. If you are not yet seeing any signs of discomfort in her friends, trust that it’s still OK. On the other hand, if you are seeing signs that some kids don’t like it, you may want to gently point this out and help her develop new ways to show her affection. You can also teach her to ask for a hug first, as a way of respecting her friends’ personal space.
Talk with your daughter about how affection is sometimes shown in different ways outside the family than it is at home. Teach her that a smile, kind or complimentary words, or offering a small token of friendship, such as a handmade card or craft, are all wonderful ways of showing affection to friends. You might try modelling new affectionate behaviours toward your daughter: If your eyes light up and you have an excited tone of voice when you see her, and you comment about even the small things you like about her, she will learn to express affection in these new ways. But do keep hugging your daughter!