Camps Set Rules for Hugging

Free-range parenting guru Lenore Skenazy recently wrote about a new rule at her kids’ camp:  If a counselor wants to hug a camper, the counselor has to bend down to the kid’s level so the child’s face isn’t anywhere near the counselor’s “groin.”

I was a camper and later, a camp counselor and part of what made camp so special for me was the strong camper-counselor bond. I’d hate for that connection to be sullied by displaced by paranoia.

The idea that anyone who works with children must have improper designs on them is disturbing. Our overwrought fears about child molestation has reached a dangerous level if we now must regulate hugging. Just how does the camp explain to an upset child that their counselor can’t console them with a good old-fashioned hug?

Skenazy argues persuasively on ParentDish why camp counselors should be allowed to hug campers:

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….Sexual abuse is nothing to take lightly. But treating hugs as abuse is nothing to take lightly, either.

Skenazy said this sort of thinking is rampant in today’s fearful and overprotective society. She compares it to the British Airways rule that a male passenger seated next to a minor who is not his own child must move seats. There’s a lawsuit going on over the issue right now.

When will we get over this idea that every adult is a potential child molester? It’s wrong to fill our kids’ minds with stranger danger.

“I’m a social worker and I’ve dealt with child abuse over my entire career,” says blogger Susan Pease Banitt, who was the victim of abuse as a child. “But I don’t think sexual abuse starts with hugging.”

Skenazy suggests that camps and schools are driven to ban hugs because of fears of potential lawsuits. I’d hate for this sort of thing to catch on as a trend. The next thing you know, kids are going to have to ask permission before they can hug someone.

What do you think? Should counselors be allowed to hug campers?

Photo: flickr/carlarolfe

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