I have a kissing conundrum. I see several adorable kiddos that love to give kisses, both in therapy and in my special needs church classroom on Sundays. How they love everyone around them (most days) is one of their gifts, but the cautious side of me worries a bit. My phrase of the day has been “Kisses are for mommy and daddy”. I tell my kids that I love them too, then try to redirect with a high-five or a fist bump.
Out in the world, randomly kissing people they know, and those they don’t, can make them vulnerable. It can make boundaries a little fuzzy. It makes them stand out as they get older. I saw this last week with one of my favorite former students, who is now in middle school. He walked up to introduce himself to a new volunteer in our church class last week unprompted (yay!). As he was greeting the new guy, he then leaned over and kissed his hand. The poor volunteer didn’t really know what to do, and he was a bit perplexed. He looked at me and smiled nervously.
I took my buddy to the side and we chatted a bit about how you introduce yourself to someone you have never met before. I then asked him what he thought the man was thinking when a stranger kissed his hand. My friend sat there a minute thinking about it and said to me, “Okay, watch this”. He then walked over to someone else he hadn’t met, introduced himself, shook their hand and looked at me smiling. No kisses. Perfect, a teachable moment that worked!
Thinking about this situation, I started wondering when do we need to start this discussion with families? How old is too old? How young is too young? How do we foster and support our kids as they grow into young adults with healthy boundaries, without losing that loving spirit? Now you understand my kissing conundrum. I have made social stories for my little ones and used the Circle of Friends visual targets with my older students. Any suggestions, especially for middle-schoolers through young adults, would be greatly appreciated. Share here!!