From Kicking Back to Introducing Hugs

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“Suzanne Gelb Image”

Dear Readers:


As an added resource, over the next few months I will supplement my answers with self-help materials. Supplemental reading for today’s answers can be found in my book “Welcome Home. A Book About Overcoming Addictions” (p. 73-74 for Answer 1; p. 75-76 for Answer 2). For more information visit my Web site at

”Cruising – Why is That Difficult?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

I am a goal-oriented person, and I have achieved a lot, but this has caused me to miss out having a social life. Now I am trying to have more of a social life also. Someone I respect suggested I adopt more of a “que sera sera” attitude, if you know that song, it then goes, “whatever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see, que sera sera.” I find this difficult. Suggestions?

Trying to Kick Back

A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Kicking Back:

I think that the attitude that was suggested to you has caused problems for people who have desired a relationship — kicking back tends to result in a person not making themselves available for a relationship. When we want something, we have to make it happen. One cannot passively lie around and sleep like sleeping beauty. To have a relationship with anyone or anything, we must make ourselves available.

Then, when it happens be prepared for a pleasurable trip to Disneyland. This is what I call the ups and downs and roller coaster of the emotional experience of the mating game. Be prepared for some wonderful and some not so wonderful experiences, but remember that with every person that one meets and dates, even in those instances, hopefully not too many, where the person one meets is distasteful, there is likely to be some attribute in that person that we can add to our list of attributes that we would like to see in our ideal match when he or she arrives.

”Hugs – Why Doesn’t My Kid Hug Back?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

My 16-year-old doesn’t seem to want me to hug her — she certainly doesn’t want to hug back. When I give her a hug she’ll often turn sideways. She’ll also drop her head so I kiss the top of her head, rather than her cheek. I see her hugging her friends easily, so I’m thinking it’s just me. Honestly, I’m not sure if I was hugging her a lot before, because we were not an affectionate or much of an interactive family when she was growing up, but I’ve thought it was important and starting being more physically affectionate with her. Since she doesn’t seem to like it, should I stop?


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Hug:

Your question typifies an experience that many children have — they live the greater part of their young life in a family that is not affectionate or extroverted in their communication with each other. Your family as you describe it, does not appear to have been demonstrative where there was hugging and kissing; nor was there, I imagine, some of the typical screaming and yelling about socks on the floor and dirty bathrooms, and then after a while making up with a nice kiss on the cheek and big hug and a thank you for behaving yourself.

In this regard, any sudden change in a parent’s behavior toward a child, especially an adolescent, can be awkward and embarrassing for the child. In most instances, where parents introduce affection into the family interaction after its lengthy absence, I believe that the most that parents can hope for is to show their love for their child in many ways other than physical contact. It is also a good idea for parents to try to communicate with their child about the issue of intimacy and affection in the family, and to apologize for their lack of affection during this child’s growing up years.

One parent went even further, explaining to her daughter that, “Now that I have grown emotionally and understand the necessity of closeness and affection I would like to be more affectionate toward you if you could give me permission to do so and I promise that I will not embarrass you in front of your friends by wanting a hug or a kiss.”

It is possible for parents and children to learn and grow together without parent giving up their authority in the process.

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

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