Teaching Kids About Personal Space – Part 1 originally appeared on July 13, 2012.
One of the very best things about M and M is that they LOVE. Oh boy do they love. They welcome everyone into their circle as instant friends, they always have. It’s a beautiful quality that I want to preserve, nurture and mimic.
All of that love can sometimes be overwhelming, especially to friends who aren’t quite as hands on. One of the lessons we practice often is respecting boundaries and personal space. We started when Big M was a toddler and I have a feeling we’ll be teaching our kids about personal space for long time to come. I get it… for someone who will always take a hug it’s hard to understand why someone wouldn’t want one. However, learning to understand what others like or don’t like is important. Learning how to read social cues is essential.
Teaching Kids About Personal Space – The Prep
Before we see friends (or in this case cousins) who we already know would prefer a quick wave to a bear hug we chat about boundaries.
- We talk about why we hug? Most likely because we like someone and want to make them happy. Knowing they don’t want a hug and still hugging makes them uncomfortable and that’s not the goal. What are some ways we can express love without a big hug?
- We discuss the importance of boundaries. Everyone has different comfort levels and everyone has the right to keep their boundaries protected.
- I haven’t tried it for this situation yet… but I’m sure a behavior book would be a powerful tool.
- I just found this great book called Personal Space Camp by Julia Cook. It shares a journey of a boy who learns strategies for respecting other peoples personal space. There is even a light bulb moment where he realizes how others might feel about him being in their space. (affiliate link)
Teaching Kids About Personal Space – In the Moment
Sometimes the prep isn’t quite enough. One M or the other will be wrapped around the unsure recipient, hugging away.
- We gently remove the overeager hugger and ask some questions. “Do you think she wanted a hug?” “How do you know?”
- We talk about body language. “Did you notice how he moved when you hugged him?” “Did he hug you back?” “Did he pull his body away?” “What do you think that means?”
- We brainstorm solutions. “What are some other way’s you can let her know you are having fun?” “Can you think of three ways you could say goodbye? What is one way that would make you both happy?”
Teaching Kids About Personal Space – The Follow Up
Every learning experience can be expanded on (hey I write a blog about that. 🙂 ). Once we’re on our way home or off to the next activity it’s the perfect time to reflect.
- We try to stick to the positive. “Hey, I noticed that you stopped hugging him right when he took a step back. You must have been noticing his body language telling you to back up a bit.”
- Talking about unrelated body language clues will help make the idea more concrete. “Did you see when she moved her seat closer to the music? What do you think that meant?”
Teaching kids to respect their friends personal space is important and so is teaching them to protect their own personal space. Which angle are you coming from? Do you have a little one who loves to hug or one that would prefer a little space?
Check out these 20 personal space activities for kids for hands on, playful ways of learning about personal space!