If you catch your child kissing another child, you need to breathe, stay calm and assess the situation before you react. Chances are, your youngster is just trying to show that she likes and cares for the other kid. These things happen, so go with the flow and work through it.
Before you react, take a few things into account first. Kissing to kids has a different meaning than it does to us. KidsHealth.org points out that sexual development starts when children are very young and this is perfectly normal. After all, that’s how you’ve been showing her that you love her this whole time. Be mindful of your reaction to the kissing. Your tone of voice, words and facial expressions will indicate to your child how you feel about this situation and topic as a whole. Calmly break up the kissing session and redirect them to a different activity. KidsHealth.org urges you to refrain from anger, surprise and disapproving words because this will tell your child that her curiosity and expression of affection is wrong and may cause shame.
Model Appropriate Behaviors
You are a big contributor to how your child grows and learns. She learns many behaviors from watching you. Explain to your child that people show affection in different ways and show her the difference. Let your child know that it’s okay for mommies, daddies, grandmas and grandpas to kiss each other because they are family. Demonstrate how you want her to show affection to family members. Then explain that non-family members, such as friends, teachers and neighbors, are different and that you must respect their personal space. Then demonstrate to her how you want her to show affection to these kinds of people.
Other Ways to Show Affection
There are plenty of ways to show affection. You can offer your child different ways to show affection, instead of kissing her friends on the lips. Kisses on the cheek or hand are more acceptable. Hugs, high fives, handshakes and kind words are also appropriate. This is a gentle way to redirect without giving your child the impression that showing affection is wrong.
Keep an Eye Out
Although child kissing can just be a form of expression, there are times when it’s not so innocent and you’ll need to examine things a bit closer. Monitor what your child is exposed to throughout the day. Sex and affection are often demonstrated in unrealistic ways on television and radio. Being around older children and adults may also have an effect on how your child acts. She may be mimicking behaviors she sees. There are also some warning signs to be mindful of. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network says to watch for red flags, such as demonstrating actions or behaviors beyond the child’s developmental level; actions involving threats, force or aggression; or a child trying to kiss a child who is dramatically older or younger. Consult a health care professional if you have any questions or concerns.
- KidsHealth: Understanding Early Sexual Development
- Sexual Development and Behavior in Children; The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
- Ask Dr. Sears: 7 Ways to Build Healthy Sexuality
- Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images