When is it OK to Hug a Kid?

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-24-2005
When is it OK to Hug a Kid?
5
Sat, 01-05-2013 - 3:28am

I'm a middle aged guy who volunteered through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization to mentor a 10 year-old boy. We've been getting together since Thanksgiving every week and are having fun together (e.g., bowling, swimming, eating out, movies). He was at his dad's for the holidays and when he got back he called and left a message for me saying, "I miss you, can't wait to see you again." OMG. I had tears in my eyes. It was the sweetest, most vulnerable message you've ever heard from a kid. I'm really falling in love with this kid. He's been neglected and abandoned by everyone--including his parents who have drug issues (he lives with his brother and grandmother). After the message I wanted to just put my arms around him and hold him forever, tell him I love him, that he's a great kid and that I will always be there for him and never leave him. My own father was very affectionate and had no problem hugging me and my sister and telling us he loved us and how great we were. But the thing is, I'm not this kid's father and wonder how appropriate that is (he only sees his real father twice a year). The other thing is, in this world that has become hyper aware of childhood sexual abuse, I don't want to send any wrong impressions. So when would be safe/appropriate time to hug him and tell him I love him? Thanks!

Avatar for bradleyteach
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-29-2001
Sat, 01-05-2013 - 2:31pm

Really it's not okay.  Big Brothers/Big Sisters is a mentor program, so it's like being a teacher, tutor, coach, piano teacher - these people do not hug kids.  It's great for this young boy to have a caring man in his life, but this isn't a family relationship, and you've had this boy for a period of weeks - it is way too early to assure him of love and that you'll always be there for him.  He's had enough people abandon him. Don't make promises.  Do be careful - my sister was in the program as a Big, and she wouldn't do it again - it leaves you open to all kinds of liability, being allowed to drive a kid in your car, spend time alone with them in your home - she suggests never being alone with your little and always meeting with them in a public place, where their parent drops off and picks up.

Good luck

                                                         mindy

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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Sat, 01-05-2013 - 8:40pm

I agree with Bradleyteach. The most I'd do is pat the kid on the back and tell him you're on his side. This is a very vulnerable age in which kids tend to idolize teachers and other adults they admire, so this could be very tricky.

My kids' school (6-12th grade) doesn't allow middle school teachers to hug students, but once they reach high school, if the student initiates the hug, the teachers are allowed to reciprocate. This rule takes into account the developmental stages of the children. A 10 year old is very susceptible to developing an inappropriate crush (regardless of orientation), so a hug from a non-family member could be very confusing. If you want to continue this relationship and be there for this kid, don't do it.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Sat, 01-05-2013 - 10:19pm

The fact that you say you "love" this child you've only known for a short period of time and that you want to promise you'll "always" be there for him raises more red flags for me than your desire to hug him.  I agree that it would be horrible to make a promise to be there for him and later not to keep it after he's been abandoned by multiple people.  I'm sure there are BB/BS who end up having life long relationships, but I don't know how many.  A 10 yr old kid is "cute" and you've been having tons of fun--what happens in a couple of years when he becomes an adolescent & isn't cute all the time and maybe is a pain in the neck?  When I met my DSD she was 10--she turned from being a cute obedient quiet 10 yr old to a few years later a high school kid who gave us a lot of trouble and she wasn't so cute & cuddly when she grew to about 5'10" and heavy either.  Of course as her SM I basically had to put up with all of this cause she lived in our home, (she ended up moving out when she was a senior in h.s. due to a bad relationship w/ her father, but that's another story). Some kids end up being pretty easy as teens (I'd say my kids are in that category) but you never know how he's going to turn out when he's had a lot of issues to deal with--are you prepared for all of that kind of stuff?  I'd bet you are a guy who hasn't really had any experience with kids.  And you should not be hugging him.  

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Mon, 01-07-2013 - 9:09am
I think you've gotten some good advice so far. If I recall from my days as a Big Sister, there was a training video and advisors to go to with questions. I would use the resources and find out what they consider appropriate and inappropriate. But I do agree that while giving attention and guidance to the child, its best to keep any physical signs at a distance at this point.
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Avatar for 3EggsnAL
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-06-2012
Mon, 01-07-2013 - 5:15pm

Although you have gotten some good advice I also think its important to show him how to be a great man.  Know what I mean?  He obviously doesn't have a good man role model in his family to show him how to to be a good man when he grows up.  It's okay to show compassion and that you care for him.  Maybe come up with a special handshake or fist bump that you do when you see each other.  I am a hugger too but I also understand why it's not a good idea.  

But, teachers do hug the kids they teach or have taught.  I see it all the time and have seen it since my kids have started school.