Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Just Realized

that none of my children give me the heebie jeebies when they hug me anymore. I'm sure it sounds horrible to those of you that are reading with attached children or your own homemade ones so let me go back and explain.

When the kids came home to us, several of them had clingy and sexual affection for us. The sexual part got under control but the clingy, hanging on for dear life hugs were still present for a very long time. Have you ever known someone that hugged you too long or was desperate for your attention to the point it made you feel uncomfortable? Multiply that by 100 and you may begin to feel what some of my children do to others. They were so desperate that it was hard for others to be around them the first years. Their loving aunt and uncle were afraid to hurt their feelings and our extended family and friends were horrified to have this little child sitting on their lap or refusing to leave them alone. (We are still having an issue with friends. A couple of our kids will even still scoot towards them after the friend has been obvious and scooted away from the child.)

Try and form a parental relationship with a child that makes you feel like that. One that has to have 100 kisses on your lips and then 100 more blown back and forth before you finally put your foot down on the number they are allowed. Sound harsh? It felt awful. I loved these children but their poor boundaries with me and any other breathing adult was overwhelming at times. If I was sitting in a chair, they would lean over my back, hurting me while they lay all their weight one me. This "love" they were sharing was not affectionate but painful.

We knew to be straight forward with them from the start. We knew no one had sown them the right way to be affectionate and they needed to be taught was appropriate in a caring way. In other words, I could see myself losing control if I was kneed in the face one more time by a child climbing up in my lap while I was using the restroom. (Yes, that happened.) We began with the big stuff like "please don't kiss my breast because it is not OK but if you'd like to kiss my hand, that's OK". We figured the sexual stuff would draw the most attention and needed to take priority for every one's safety. We used a the term "personal space" to let the kids know they had crossed a line within our family and with others. It was easy enough to say and funny to watch them all scatter to appropriate places without anyone being singled out. I still have to use it on a regular basis when others are here or we are out and I can see all my kids double checking to be sure it's not them.

I sat some of them down about a year ago and had a real heart to heart about it. These kids were still extremely clingy and desperate towards me. I worried it was me. Maybe I didn't like this child as much as the others. Maybe that child was just more of a hugger. I really thought about it and put myself on trial. I realized that it wasn't me. These children needed to find other ways to be affectionate and as their mother, it was my job to teach them. I explained how hugs that hurt didn't make me feel lovey towards them but made me feel like I didn't want to hug them. I told them it wasn't their fault and I would help them regulate their need for physical affection. Sounds horrible, I know. It felt worse, trust me. I was clear that I wanted to get hugs from them but they needed to ask before they ran into me or laid their bodies over me. I put a limit on the amount of kisses I was giving at bed time. I made a point to initiate physical contact before they asked or did it.

It took time and we are still working on it. What is better is we no longer have to put limits on it. These same children have learned appropriate times and how to hug. I am not leaving the hug feeling violated. The best thing is they feel good about it. They know I love them and want to snuggle now. It has been great for our relationship and their growth. It did hurt their feelings at first but has made them feel so much better about themselves now. One child had mentioned it awhile ago, she told me she is a good hugger now. She admits she still hugs her teachers a lot but tries to make them quick ones;)


Jennie said...

some spectral kids are inappropriately affectionate. Aspie Boy's therapist taught us to say, "now is not the hugging time" or "now is not the kissing time" and then when it was we'd say, "now is the time to hug/kiss" but we'd control the beginning of the affectionate act so we could control the level and the appropriateness of it. Aspie boy still tackles me from across the room, strangles me with a hug about my neck and plants nasty,sloppy kisses on my eyes from time to time but it's gotten considerably better!

T and M said...

So, do you feel it's wrong to NOT kiss your child on the mouth? From the week we brought out foster daughter home, she thought she should kiss us *ON THE MOUTH* like, a million times. We refused and continue to do so. "Mouth kisses are only for grown ups, kids shouldn't kiss on the mouth because we love you and don't want to share our germs with you." (she has a genetic disease which includes a weak immune system, so we played it up.)...
A lot of people look at us like we're dirt because we won't kiss on the mouth.

Kelly said...

Interesting post.

Beth is weirdly affectionate. Nothing like you deal with but she stares and sits RIGHT NEXT to people and touches them. She can't keep her hands off her friends when playing with them. Whether it's trying to hold their hand, hug them (and not let go) or rubbing their hair or back, it makes them uncomfortable.

She seeks me out to hug me and used to almost squeeze my head off. Better now about that. She comes for hugs when I am doing things I can't hug back, like cooking and have stuff all over my hands.

She makes people feel uncomfortable but it's mostly her staring. It is way over the top. People comment on her staring A LOT!!!!! This is one thing that has not gotten any better in the 16 months she has been here. It's embarrassing and discouraging.

Michelle said...

I'm so glad that your kids are learning appropriate affection. It's sad that that they have to be taught this.

In my foster care experience, this is a common problem. Every child we've had that was old enough to kiss or hug could not do it properly.

We had twin boys that used to totally gross me out. I immediately had to tell them, "No kissing on the lips...that's my husband's spot". My lips have been a designated "husband's spot" ever since. They tried to kiss me like they saw on TV...between a man and woman. Hugs were not much better. It was just like you said, clingy, desperate and far to frequent to be comfortable.

My 2 older adopted children are just now learning how to kiss properly (actually, my son rarely ever kisses me...I'm thinking we are having some bonding issues).

Dia por Dia said...

Isn't it great when you realize this is no longer the case! I still have one that I have a hard time accepting "hugs" from but that's usually because he approaches/pounces when I feel I a going to be used as a kleenex/paper towel! I had bruises from all the "hugging" I got and I just winced when I saw it comig! (And yes, I believe you on the toilet thing since it happened around here a couple of times!)

mrslilypond said...

Maybe it's odd, since I do have my bio kid. But I think I understand, I knew a little boy you was pretty neglected and ended up getting adopted by his great aunt & uncle.
He was so clingy to any one who showed him an ounce of attention. It got to be a bit much at times. But knowing the situation that he had come from, I was glad to give him all the extra attention I had, at sunday school.

To know that these kids can grow and change so much in a healthy environment gives me so much hope for him.
And a smile in my heart for your family.