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Forcing Children To Kiss Relatives May Be Harmful, Sex Education Experts Claim

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No doubt it's sometimes tough to get your reluctant kids to give grandma and grandpa a big smooch on the cheek upon arrival at a family gathering. And -- according to a sex education chief in the UK -- maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Lucy Emmerson, co-ordinator of the Sex Education Forum in England -- a national authority on sex and relationship education -- said that forcing children to kiss their grandparents may blur the boundaries of what is acceptable when it comes to physical contact rather than teach children about how to properly show affection, according to The Daily Mail.

She said that one should encourage children to blow kisses, wave or do high-fives with relatives, with an eye towards helping them avoid sexual exploitation down the road. In short, she emphasized that kids need to understand the importance of consent and the fact that "their bodies are their own," according to The Daily Mail.

Her viewpoints, published in an online sex education resource for teachers, have been heavily criticized.

Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, told The Daily Mail that: "Even if the distinction is lost on the Sex Education Forum, children and young people are able to recognize that there is all the difference in the world between self-consciously -- and perhaps on occasion reluctantly -- kissing an uncle or aunt on the cheek on the one hand, and accepting unwanted sexual advances on the other."

Another critic, Margaret Morrissey of family campaign group Parents Outloud, called the recommendation "ridiculous." She said kissing relatives is part of what builds strong and caring families.

"The Sex Education Forum is trying to take any kind of human feeling and kindness out of the way we bring up children and that's really sad," she told The Daily Mail.

Even so, Emmerson insisted that encouraging a child to give a high-five or a wave will make them less vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse in the future.

"If we can’t manage to create a culture of consent for everyday physical contact, it will be surely be a tall order for sexual situations," she said.

Emmerson made her comments in the Sex Education Forum's e-magazine. She wrote: "I believe learning about consent starts from age zero. Much is learnt by young children from everyday experiences about whether or not their opinion is valued and if they have any control over physical contact with others."

A recent survey by the Sex Education Forum found that nearly one in three children had not learned about sexual consent at school.

Even so, most family experts in recent years have emphasized the important part a grandparent can play in a child's life. One study released in mid-2013 found that both grandparents and adult grandchildren who felt emotionally close to the other generation displayed fewer symptoms of depression.

Earlier on HuffPost50:

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