“My daughter doesn't want me to hug her.”
Dear Annie,At about age 14, my oldest daughter decided she didn't want her father and me to hug her... so we stopped. She is 18 now and we are seldom affectionate. Her sisters, now 14 & 15, have begun the same thing. My question is, do we respect their wishes and never touch them or hug them? Or do we look for opportunities to show affection even though they will most likely reject it?
Dear No Hugs,
As I'm sure you've noticed, people have different "tolerances" for being touched. Some people love to give and get hugs, anywhere, any time. For other people, hugging can make make them feel a loss of personal space and control. Some people may feel that the hugging person is demanding a certain level of affection from them and any response feels forced.
A 14 year old is at the developmental stage in his/her life where the primary focus is on establishing a separate identity, independent of parents. The "no more hugs" request is not uncommon. And yes, of course, it should be respected.
But (and this is a big but...) I'm wondering if what your daughter requested 4 years ago has caused her to paint herself into a corner. In other words, has her "no hugs" rules become so "normal" in your relationship that even if she wanted to hug you, she dare not because the pattern she set in motion is not even questioned any more.
I'm going to suggest that you question it by talking to her about it. Talking about it is healthy and it will probably help you understand your oldest daughter better. Be respectful. Have the conversation in private. No quilt tripping! This cannot be about "I am your mother and you must let me hug you." OR "How can you reject me in this way!!" Neither of those approaches is going to make it safe for her to talk to you honestly about her feelings... And that's exactly what you want, an opportunity for BOTH of you to talk about your feelings about being touched.
Speaking of talking, I'm wondering whether the two of you have good communication between you. You don't mention whether you and your daughter have a close relationship, which you certainly can have even if you don't hug. If you two can talk easily with each other, then it's time to talk about this, because clearly, it's on your mind.
Tell her how you've been feeling over the past 4 years since she has asked for no more hugs. (What are you feeling? Do you feel sad because you assume she doesn't love you as much as a daughter who freely hugs her parents? Do you feel like you hold back your love for her because you can't touch her? Think about your feelings before you have the conversation.) Tell her what the hug represents to you. Ask her if she hugs her friends, etc. And if so, how is it different with her and you? Assure her that of course you respect her right not to touched, but you're wondering if there might be any circumstance when she would actually want a hug from you OR want to give you a hug. For example, if she were away for a few months and came home again?
Talk about your relationship with your own parents when it comes (came) to hugging. Did you get as much as you wanted? Did you get more than you wanted?
Of course you can show your daughter affection, delight, approval, support in many other ways besides hugging. And I hope that you do. If she still doesn't want to be hugged or touched, then that's her choice. It needs to be respected.
I would, however, let her know, that if she ever feels like hugging you, she should NOT hesitate because you will always be happy to receive a hug from her.
As for your younger daughters... Have the same conversation with each of them, individually and privately.