Social media photos of Victoria and David Beckham kissing their kids on the lips sparked some debate. So we want to know: Is it OK to kiss your kids on the lips?
I’ve never had an opinion about parents kissing their children on the lips. That is, until I became a father and was cast into the opinion-drenched world of moms and dads. Who knew an innocent peck could draw such a distinct line in the sand between parents? Well, pucker up and kiss my assenting stance on lip kissing.
My views on the topic stem from my upbringing – I was raised by lip kissing parents and it was always simply a sign of affection in our family. The thought of it being anything more than a simple statement of familial love from my parents never crossed my mind.
Fast forward to the present. I kiss my six-year-old son on the lips nearly every day. It’s how we say good night; it’s how I wish him a good school day. It is our normal and our little pecks on the lips live in the same realm as hugs, high fives, smiles and other means of communicating affirmations of love to my son..
In an interview, Dr. Alan Manevitz, clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says, “Research suggests that intimacy between parents and children has a positive effect on a child's development. Intimacy in this case refers to displays of affection such as holding, hugging, tickling or kissing a child.”
What’s more, in European cultures it’s common for adults, children, friends and other family members to kiss each other on the lips and cheeks. This is not considered sexual but is an accepted, platonic means of showing affection.
In the end it comes down to family dynamics, cultural norms, experience with outward affection, and how people communicate. For us, lip kissing is just one positive, physical way to show affection.
If you’re asking yourself, “If I can’t kiss my kids on the lips, who can I kiss on the lips?” the answer is your partner – that’s it.
I grew up in a house where we didn’t show a lot of physical affection. I used to go over to my friend’s house and when her Dad came in the door, everyone would pucker up for a kiss on the lips. I wondered if they were part of a cult.
I can’t talk about kissing without disclosing I have been prone to cold sores my entire life. I have worked exceptionally hard to keep germs away from my mouth. Kids eat bugs, they eat glue, they eat bugs dipped in glue. They put their hands in the dirt and then in their mouths. They wipe and miss. Pucker up? No thanks.
The lines can become blurred if parents aren’t mindful. Andrea P., a daycare provider for Wellington County, Ont. has children attempting to kiss her on the lips all day, every day and has to discuss boundaries and personal space regularly. If you are kissing your kids on the lips at home, they can mistake this type of “family intimacy” as being widely acceptable while out in public with near strangers.
A friend arrives for a dinner party and always greets me with a kiss on the lips. It starts a weird domino of embraces and awkward lip kissing among the other guests while I think a closed fist bump or an “aye-aye captain!” salute would keep the germs at bay and keep people guessing about what other awesome hands-to-yourselves gestures we have planned.
Then her son says something rude to his sibling and another parent says, “Do you kiss your Mom with that mouth?” I hope not.
My association with lip kissing is related to close intimacy between romantic partners. As a result, I feel uncomfortable when other adults kiss me on the lips and typically turn my head so that their lips meet my cheek, whenever possible. Although there may be families or cultures within which lip kissing between parents and children is considered acceptable, I believe that since most people feel more comfortable being kissed on the cheek by people, other than their romantic partners, that I prefer to model this to my children and to advise other parents to do the same, when I am asked.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, Fall 2017.