Parents, consent is super important — even if that consent belongs to someone as young as five years old.
Growing up, I don't think I was ever taught about consent. My school didn't teach me about consent in sex education and my parents definitely didn't teach me about consent when we had the dreaded "birds and the bees" talk. Thankfully, things are changing. More and more, kids are being taught about consent, that their bodies are theirs, and they have the right to say no. Despite all this progress we've made, it appears that we throw out all this learning when the holidays come around. Think about it. How many times have you forced your child to hug or kiss someone when they didn't want to? Sure, we want our kids to be polite, but that shouldn't come at the cost of their own autonomy.
Now, I know what you're thinking. "My daughter is five! She surely can't consent!" Well... That's probably what a sexual predator thinks too. How is your child supposed to apply the learnings they've gained about consent if their own parents don't care about whether they want to give a hug or not? Usually, a child's ability to say no is revoked by the people they most respect or look up to, their own family members. Besides, it's pretty paradoxical to tell your children that they have the right to say no without respecting that very principle as their parent.
The problem lies in our need to be "polite." If you're a woman, you've probably faced this issue as an adult. How many times have you simply went along with a hug or kiss when you didn't want to all because you wanted to be polite, so as to not anger someone, hurt their ego, or put yourself in danger? It is this very reasoning we teach our children when we tell them to hug a family member out of the need to be polite or follow arbitrary rules of social conduct. Believe it or not, this is the kind of conditioning that influences your kids' self-confidence and negates their bodily autonomy.
Therefore, this holiday season, instead of forcing your children to interact with people they don't want to, stick up for them. Tell the adults that they simply have to deal with not receiving a kiss or a hug from your young child. After all, why is it so difficult for adults, who should already understand that not-so-difficult concept of consent by the way, to accept a simple "no" from your child? Honor your child's feelings now and they will learn how to stand their ground when they get older and, unfortunately, have to interact with people who tell them they don't need to respect your child's personal space. It all starts at home.