Camp Counselors Should Be Allowed to Hug Kids

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Bend down!

That's the new rule at my kids' camp this summer: If a counselor feels like hugging a camper, the counselor must bend down to the child's level, so the child's face does not end up buried in his or her "groin."

Apparently, word of this got out (and what a word it was) because my tween-age boys came home gleefully yapping about groin this, groin that. That was some dinner conversation. "Please pass the groin ... er ... corn!"

But the bottom line? Hugs will never be the same. Now they are pervy things that disgusting adults do to children unless proper precautions are taken. Great.

Hugs have become supremely suspicious thanks to a Nancy Grace-type outlook on life that is supremely suspicious. I know a Sunday School teacher who got kicked out of his (volunteer!) job for kissing a toddler's forehead when she fell down. Strike one! And then for telling another little girl who was helping him pass out construction paper, "You're my special helper."

"I'm Mr. C's special helper!" the girl told her parents.

Strike two. The parents, horrified at the possible implications -- was he "grooming" their daughter? -- wanted him out. And they got their way.

The knee-jerk idea is that anyone who wants anything to do with kids is possibly, if not probably, a pervert. Did you know that on British Airways, a male passenger who ends up seated next to a minor who is not his own child is automatically forced to change seats? Yep. There's a lawsuit going on about it now. The assumption: You're male, you're a grown up, you probably want to ...

Let's just say it involves a groin.

Hugs get thrown into the mix because we now automatically assume the worst, first about any adult/child contact. But schools and camps ban hugs out of their own worst-case thinking: They assume that a child who is hugged could well sue for sexual harassment.

And so we have sexualized and criminalized and crazy-ized a lovely thing that, as it turns out, is pretty darn innocent and even good for kids.

"I'm a social worker and I've dealt with child abuse over my entire career," says blogger Susan Pease Banitt. Moreover, she herself was victimized as a child. "But I don't think sexual abuse starts with hugging."

Sexual abuse is nothing to take lightly. But treating hugs as abuse is nothing to take lightly, either. We are sacrificing love (or at least comfort) because these days we've got groins for brains.

Related: The Real Reason Your In-Laws Don't Want You (and Your Baby) to Visit

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.