Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Indiscriminate affection, a plea for help

When we brought Dariya home in July 2011 I asked people to avoid picking her up and loving on her until she was well adjusted to our family due to indiscriminate affection.

Indiscriminate affection is a term used to describe the behavior of children willing to love anyone.  This is seen in many children that come home from orphanages especially older children as Dariya was.

They have to use their cuteness and ability to hug and love on a caregiver to get some support.  Thankfully Dariya was in a good orphanage, although we never saw any of the caregivers hug her except when we took her away on gotcha day.

Dariya has transitioned very well to our family.  If you have been following us a while you already know that. Our friends were so helpful and respectful in not giving her extra affection so that she could bond with our family.  We believe she has bonded well and understands family.

However, as of the last month or so we have seen a huge rise in her indiscriminate affections, mainly hugging although she went up to another preschooler at church and asked for a kiss this past week.  At her class Valentines party she hugged every parent in the room (all strangers to us), at the library for story time she accosted two different moms (strangers) trying to hug them, at the rec center last week she asked a man (total stranger) to pick her up, and last Saturday at our Learning Program reading class she was hugging and asking everyone even the volunteers (strangers) to pick her up.  Of course, all these people strangers included were more than happy to oblige her and thought she was the best thing since sliced bread.

Our concern is that as a 5 year old this behavior might be cute but as she gets older this behavior will truly be frowned on not only by her classmates but also society.

We aren't sure what has caused this outburst of affection with her.  I am wondering if she is picking up more and more on my diagnosis.  But, whatever the reason is behind it we believe that she has to be stopped and that is where we are asking for your help...

We are asking if you see this sweet, adorable, ever so huggable girl that you help us reinforce that "HUGS are only for family".  Please do not pick her up or give her hugs or kisses. You may give high fives or fist bump, or shake her hand.
As we aren't with her in every situation and sometimes can't stop her before she has already hugged someone please don't be offended if we stop her from hugging you and reinforce our mantra that hugs are for family only.

It truly takes a village to raise a child and we appreciate your help in this journey!


Elissa said...

I have never thought of this in the way you are describing, but I can see what you are saying. Abbie, not adopted, hugs everyone. I can see how later on this coule cause issues and be frowned upon as well. You've really given us something to think about....

kimk said...

Our son, is not adopted and well bonded, but still
hugs and loves on everyone. He will be 6 next month. Strangers in the store, everyone, and tries to kiss them!
It is who he is. He is affectionate. Never the less, we too say, "hugs and kisses are for family' (mostly its germs that freak me out.) and we encourage high 5s

I have talked with many parents of older teens and adults with DS, and this is not unusual for kids with Ds. But yes does pose a problem as they age (what is sweet at 5 yrs old, is not so much at 15) but nearly all parents say their kids started placing their own boundaries as they started hitting 8,9,10 yrs old.
We work on appropriate affection, but also know it is probably one of those worries about any child a parents has that as long as it is addressed it usually resolves itself without to much intervention ; )
We are also adoptive parents, (not our child with DS, he is biological) and our adopted daughter did have inappropriate bonding issues, especially as a teen. Sge is grown now and becoming a wife and mother has helped her find where her ties really are, and we are so thankful, but it sure was a hard issue raising her.
Certainly dealing with both the affectionate nature that some persons with DS have, plus some of the insecurity and bonding issues adopted children may have, is a double whammy.
You are wonderful to say...hey this concerns us and can you help us with this : )

Becca said...

GREAT post! We also have had to deal with this, mainly as a result of her extra 21st. Sammi is definitely an affectionate child, and people love to love her. But a couple of years ago we started to work on curbing this in earnest, and had a lot of success. We started with her teachers and aides, asking them to keep an eye out and to curb it, and to stop doing it themselves (although it pained them to do so). Now that we seem to be in a place where Sammi isn't as indiscriminate with her affection, we *do* allow some hugging with her teachers, as they are very close. But they're conscious of it, and she seems to be now, as well.

Elizabeth said...

This is such a hard issue, especially with children who are affectionate by nature. Some of us are more touchy, feely than others but I totally understand your concern. As a teacher, it is something we are of with our special needs children especially. Has Dariya's school made her any "social stories"? These are usually written for children with autism, but they work for others as well. Ask at her school because they could make a book just about hugging and kissing. These books are usually written for the child individually. Hope this suggestion helps.s

Julie said...

Oh My Goodness. We are having the same issue with our sweet girl. The worst was when we went into QT to get some sodas, and she hugged a strange man who was holding 2 coffees and was unable to remove her from his crotch area. (She was right at that level, while hugging.) I was sooo embarrassed and couldn't get to her fast enough! Even at school, if a new person comes into the room she runs to hug them - parent, sub, new therapist - doesn't matter. Her teacher finally gets why I've asked they not allow the hugging, but not everyone does. We too are urging showing affection by high fives and fist bumps. I'll be checking to see all your ideas!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a certain little man that belongs to us. Everyone always thinks it's so cute to hug him. Actually at church one Sunday I asked people not to hug him during the welcome time and they looked at me like I was so mean. I explained that he cannot go around hugging everyone when he is older so we are trying to encourage high fives, hand shakes or fist bumps too! Praying for you!

pearson1 said...

I've been following your blog and your story for a long while. I have worked with kids with Down Syndrome for years--(and other disabilities) and this can be a problem often. And yes, you're right that it starts early. People who mean well teach them that it's okay to hold hands, hug, and so forth, when it isn't. This is a really good program that is simple to use to help kids learn about whom it is okay to hug, and who it is not. I actually utilized the ideas from it often (cause the program is expensive). Hopefully it will help: