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;)