Forcing kids to sit on Santa's lap could lead to abuse, agency warns

Posted at 5:08 AM, Dec 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-23 08:18:14-05
(KGTV) -- A New Zealand social services agency is warning parents that forcing children to sit on Santa’s lap could lead to body autonomy concerns and leaves them vulnerable to abuse.
In a Facebook post on the page “Safe kids, thriving families,” the agency says that letting kids decide if they want to sit on Santa's lap teaches them about boundaries and knowing what feels right to their bodies. 
“Too many children are forced to sit on Santa's lap, even when they are deeply distressed and frightened. Visiting Santa is one of many opportunities we get to send super positive messages to our children that can help keep them safe from sexual abuse, long term,” the agency wrote.
“Even a visit to Santa can be a chance to let your children know that they are the boss of their body and they get to say what happens with it,” the organization said in a Facebook post.
The Facebook page is run by CAPS Hauraki, a New Zealand- based social service agency working to prevent child abuse by offering counseling, social work, parenting and youth support.
The organization bolsters their message citing a CNN report that warns about other possible effects including sexual abuse and bullying.
"When we force children to submit to unwanted affection in order not to offend a relative or hurt a friend's feelings, we teach them that their bodies do not really belong to them because they have to push aside their own feelings about what feels right to them," said Irene van der Zande, co-founder and executive director of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International.
"This leads to children getting sexually abused, teen girls submitting to sexual behavior so 'he'll like me' and kids enduring bullying because everyone is 'having fun.'" 
Jennifer Lehr, a parenting blogger, told CNN that ordering children to show affection to an adult they don't want to touch “teaches them to use their body to please you or someone else in authority or, really, anyone.”
"The message a child gets is that not only is another person's emotional state their responsibility but that they must also sacrifice their own bodies to buoy another's ego or satisfy their desire for love or affection," Lehr said.
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