When your kids are the cute, little doll-like babies that seem to require all of your efforts just to keep them afloat, smothering them with kisses seems absolutely normal. In some cases it's like an uncontrollable urge, a natural reaction to that (usually) great baby smell. As they get older the affection-meter changes and you may start to wonder when it's time to stop giving them the big, sloppy one on the lips. While personally I feel like "to each his own" it can seem a bit jarring to see a teenager kiss their parent full-on on the mouth and god knows it gave me the willies when Angelina Jolie practically made out with her brother at that awards’ show (years before she adopted many children of her own.) So is there a wrong/right time to stop kissing your kids on the mouth and if not why do some people react so prickly to the display?
Certainly there are mixed opinions on this one. In some ways it certainly appears that cultural norms play a role in the kissing arena. The Europeans feature the double-cheek kiss even with casual acquaintances. The faux-fabulous opt for the double air-cheek kiss. My seven-year old kisses both of her parents on the lips every night and even appears slighted when I offer her a cheek instead. My 11-year-old (who I'm sure is getting sick of being used as an example in my articles/diatribes) is starting to show signs of not wanting the mouth-to-mouth love. I would imagine a lot of parents go through this: your child is getting older and their idea of parental affection is changing. Licensed family therapist Arlene Licata-Miller tends to agree. She offers some insights/tell-tale sights to look out for when your child may be ready to swap out of the lip-to-lip interaction:
"Signals – The child may give you a verbal signal that they don’t like to be kissed on the mouth or a physical signal, like turning away or putting their hands out in front of them. When they start pulling away is when you stop trying to kiss them in that particular way. Be aware and when they try to pull away – let them. Maybe they don’t want to be kissed at all for a certain period of time. The child will tell you when they’re uncomfortable through their actions. Just remain perceptive," Miller advises.
Some of the anti-kissing contingency go as far as to suggest that kissing can be construed as sexual in some way; this assessment I don't agree with. Showing affection to your child in my opinion is a loving and reassuring act and should not be confused in any way with something less than innocent. Of course there are other ways of showing love and caring to your child. It really depends on your kid. "Respect your own child's feelings and boundaries," says Licata-Miller. "Hugs, kisses on the cheeks and head are also great ways of displaying your affection," she says.
As an adult I am definitely now a cheek kisser with my own parents and most relatives get the one-armed hug if I'm feeling particularly sentimental or forced; but I've been told I'm a notoriously cold fish among my brethren. On the flip-side, the kissing my kids thing is a real expression for my unconditional affection for them and when my daughter decides she wants to offer me the cheek or even the fist bump if need be I'll accept it, much like I accept and understand my son's need to announce to anyone within earshot "I'm in the bathroom," or "I'm getting changed now" (both barked while doors undoubtedly are both closed and locked.)