NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For a lot of children, holiday hugging is a must when they see family and friends.

But should kids have to wrap their arms around every relative? The Girl Scouts say no.

Kiera Deely said she likes to hug family members.

“I feel good,” she said.

Not everyone feels the same, like 11-year-old Zoe.

“My dad has some cousins that I don’t really know, so that makes me feel uncomfortable,” she said.

A blog post from the Girl Scouts said children don’t owe anyone a hug, even during the holidays, and forcing a child to hug an adult can send the wrong message about physical affection and consent.

Psychologist Jeff Gardere said it’s best to follow the child’s lead.

“When we ask them to give a hug and they push back a little bit, they’re uncomfortable with it, not have them go against their will because the lesson should really be; if you’re not comfortable with a situation we need to understand that. We need to listen to that,” he said.

The Girl Scouts said instead of hugs and kisses there are lots of alternatives from a ‘thank you high five’ to a simple smile.

Maya, 9, loves hugging relatives if she knows them.

“It’s kind of awkward to me because when I’m just meeting a relative and I’m hugging them it’s like hugging someone I don’t know at all,” she said.

Her mother said it’s sad that even hugging is under the microscope.

“I think it’s more important that kids feel safe and empowered now that we know more than we used to about not automatically being able to trust that it’s okay to hug everyone,” Leslie Cain said.

“We are from Brazil and there everyone is hugging and kissing. That’s how we greet people,” Cynthia Miranda said.

Karen Anderson loves hugs from her granddaughter, but said she’d never want to require them.

“I would rather that they just want to do it on their own. I wouldn’t force them to do it,” she said.

 

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