Huggy

May 4, 2012

I'm glad I can still get some hugs!

Her nickname, given to her by her brother, is “Huggy”.  It’s quite simple–she loves to give hugs.  It’s been pretty sweet, and she’s always received lots of praise for it, but now that she’s four, it’s not quite so cute.  She will hug anyone, stranger or not.  She runs to hug the hostess as we leave a restaurant; she hugs the parents of other children when they come into her daycare; she hugs random people out in public; recently she even hugged a balloon artist while he was twisting some pink and white balloons into the Easter Bunny at a  party. It’s not that we encourage this; on the contrary, I try to hold her back.  But if she is charging along ahead of me somewhere, she’ll quickly dart towards someone and give them a hug as I run up, grab her, and apologize.

Mostly people are very nice – once a lady just embraced her back saying, “I needed that today.”  Sometimes they look a little taken aback–but then the other day when she got away from me and hugged a friend’s mom in her class, the woman just held her hands up and looked at me with an expression that was clearly telling me to remove her. 

Not an easy concept to teach...

So it’s becoming clear that this is developing into a problem.  One of the most positive stereotypes of children with Down syndrome is how affectionate they are.  I’ve pondered this because it does seem kind of true among the children I know.  I wonder if it’s because it takes them longer to get mobile–truly she spent the first three years of her life sitting in my arms.  Perhaps she has just become more accustomed to constant physical closeness and affection.   I find it also takes our children longer to have a healthy sense of caution.  While typical kids begin to eye strangers with a look of distrust fairly early on, my daughter is open and loving towards everyone she meets.  Most people find it pretty sweet, but it really is not safe for her.  I also don’t want her to be seen in that stereotypical way– so affectionate without any sense of appropriateness.

In kindergarten next year she won’t be able to hug her teachers as they have a hands-off policy.  And so it seemed the right time to put a plan into place to teach her about hugs.  Her resource teacher at preschool has put together a fabulous social story to explain when hugs are appropriate and when they are not.  I’ve also asked her teachers not to let her hug other people at her school anymore, replacing this behaviour with a “high five” or a wave.  In some ways, I find it kind of sad, but I know that by equipping her with an understanding of accepted social norms, she will be able to make her way more easily and safely in the world. 

And then the other day when we were at a play group, someone asked her for a hug, and she hesitated– thankfully, I think she’s learning.  I’m glad to be part of her inner circle, however.  She is a pretty awesome hugger after all.  

 

 

 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

shelly May 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm

She’s most definitely an awesome hugger; we are all having a hard time resisting ourselves!

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Heather May 11, 2012 at 7:47 am

I’m sure an occasional hug wouldn’t hurt! ;)

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