Shall We Kiss? Showing Appropriate Parental Affection

How much affection is appropriate to display in front of the children?

“It is good for children to see warmth and a bond between parents,” notes Margaret Helding, PhD., president of the Society for Family Psychology, a division of the American Psychological Association. “It is reassuring to children.”

Susan Knell, Ph.D. from Spectrum Psychological Associates in Cleveland, Ohio sees the family norms as a deciding factor. “An affectionate family, one who displays warm physical contact among extended family and friends will condition a child to see this as acceptable behavior. If kisses are a normal greeting among relatives and friends, a child will think nothing of seeing his parents kiss hello or goodbye.”

In a healthy parental relationship, children accept certain displays of affection between their parents. This demonstrated admiration can support a child’s sense of well-being. However, Heldring notes, “Affection that is too sexual is uncomfortable for children and breaks a boundary. Too much would be a long kiss, intimate touches or certain spoken words such as ‘I can’t wait until later tonight’. Anything which brings a child into the intimate world of the parents’ love is not good.”

Affection is a signal to all children that there is something going on behind closed doors. Heldring says “That is ok. But it is overwhelming for child for a child to experience blatant displays of what should be happening in the bedroom while in the living room.”

In general, parents can safely respond to each other with the following gestures:

Holding hands. Whether in front of the evening’s television show or while walking together down the street, parents holding hands can make a child feel safe and secure. Seeing a warm bond between the parents (and extending the hand holding to the children) promotes the perception of a strong family unit.

Hugs. An embrace between parents shows acceptance and concern for each other. A warm hug, (not a full body clench) shows a child the parent’s willingness to comfort and support the other parent.

Kisses. A kiss to a child between his parents shows a deeper commitment. Seeing parents kiss (quick pecks only, please) furthers the impression of the parent’s caring for each other. Kisses upon returning home, leaving for work or in the parent’s first encounter during the day shows the value of the parent to the other, assuring the child that the parent will be missed during their absence and that their return is welcomed and appreciated.

Flirting. Flirting between parents, depending on the family norm, can demonstrate a dimension of romance in the relationship. Children see that a relationship should be fun and playful. Some parents may rub each other's shoulders, others may see a pat on the behind as acceptable.

Children of different ages will voice different reactions to parental affection.

Helding says, “The age of the child will provoke different reactions. A 4-year-old is all about the tactile: the physical touch and contact. But a 13-year-old, dealing with their own developmental and body changes, may feel uncomfortable in seeing displays of affection. But rest assured, despite their responses at any age, children will be secretly reassured by their parents’ love. “

Within a healthy parental relationship, children will benefit from the appropriate demonstration of affection between parents. Knell sees affection within a healthy marital relationship, as a positive role model for children. Knell finds “They can see what an adult, marital relationship should look like, and give them a basis for former relationships in their later years.”

So go ahead. Give your spouse that hug. It is good for your relationship, and ultimately good for your kids.
----------------------
Freelance writer Julie Hanahan is all about the love.

Single Parent? Find Your Tribe!

Single Parent? Find Your Tribe!

No one knows better than single parents the importance of having a team of people to handle the day-to-day demands of life with kids. Call it a team. Call it a village. Call it a tribe. Whatever you . . .

Read more

How to Help Fighting Siblings Make Peace

How to Help Fighting Siblings Make Peace

Images of smiling siblings are impressive for social media, but life with two or more children is decidedly less picture-perfect. According to research from University of Toronto, toddler-age siblin . . .

Read more

Parenting with Purpose: Why Parent/Child Dates Are So Important

Parenting with Purpose: Why Parent/Child Dates Are So Important

Scheduling regular one-on-one dates (outings) with kids is a fun way for families to build lasting bonds while setting kids up with the skills and experience needed to grow healthy relationships for . . .

Read more

How and Why to Develop  Growth Mindset in Kids

How and Why to Develop Growth Mindset in Kids

Is intelligence something you’re born with or something that develops? Is failure an opportunity to learn and grow, or something that impedes success? How a parent answers these questions greatly . . .

Read more

Early Childhood Red Flags

Early Childhood Red Flags

Are you getting a sense that your child may be "different" from other children? Here are early childhood red flags that need attention.  “Einstein didn’t speak until he was 4 years old” . . .

Read more

Parenting with Purpose: Raising Resilient Kids

Parenting with Purpose: Raising Resilient Kids

Teaching children how to do difficult things comes with parenting. We coach and encourage kids through frustration, tears and bursts of anger as they learn to tie shoes, write their names and ride a . . .

Read more

Tips to Teach Kids Time Management

Tips to Teach Kids Time Management

We all know that before school starts we need to schedule annual checkups and go back-to-school shopping, but how do we set our kids up for success that will last through the school year and beyond? . . .

Read more

Parenting with Purpose: Create Family Routines

Parenting with Purpose: Create Family Routines

Routines are like operating systems that set families up for success. They make it possible to complete essential daily tasks with the least amount of resistance, reduce family stress and help thing . . .

Read more

Violent Video Games: What Parents Need to Know

Violent Video Games: What Parents Need to Know

Have you ever heard your 6 year-old yelling, “Die, die, die!” at the top of his lungs while playing video games? Or, caught your teen hiding out and playing Fortnite instead of studying or sleep . . .

Read more

How to Make a Family Technology Contract

How to Make a Family Technology Contract

We raise our kids to be polite and respectful in person so why wouldn't we stress those same values in the online environment? A digital citizenship contract will help spell out your expectations of . . .

Read more

Parenting with Purpose: Healthy Self-Care Makes Better Parents

Parenting with Purpose: Healthy Self-Care Makes Better Parents

Some of the best parenting advice around comes from the instructions given by flight attendants just before take off: “If traveling with young children, please put on your own oxygen mask before a . . .

Read more

Parenting with Purpose: Growing Courageous Kids

Parenting with Purpose: Growing Courageous Kids

If there has ever been a time when we need to grow courageous kids, it’s now. From social media and screens big and small, to peer pressure and rapidly changing cultural norms, kids are growing up . . .

Read more

Are Kids Safe Using Location Apps?

Are Kids Safe Using Location Apps?

In today’s online world, the amount of personal information that is publically available is staggering. With several quick finger taps on a keyboard or screen, a resourceful individual can discove . . .

Read more

How to Engage in Healthy Conflict with Your Spouse

How to Engage in Healthy Conflict with Your Spouse

You and your spouse may spend most days living side-by-side in peaceful harmony, but every couple comes to a crossroads at some point that sparks a confrontation. The key to a healthy, happy marriage . . .

Read more

Let Your Kids Get Messy

Let Your Kids Get Messy

Most parents have vetoed a messy activity simply to avoid the cleanup. It’s time to let go. Messy play is sensory play—the gold standard of early childhood learning. Children learn best when the . . .

Read more

Out the Door on Time: Tips for a Smooth Morning Routine

Out the Door on Time: Tips for a Smooth Morning Routine

Lazy mornings at home with toddlers made arriving at preschool on time a challenge. When my son started kindergarten, I was determined to get my act together. Here are tips to get out the door in 45 m . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!