Chagit Zelcer
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To hug or not to hug?

If loving your grandparent these days means keeping a distance, it's a valuable lesson to teach your kids
Graphics by Chagit Zelcer

There are different ways of seeing things, of perceiving an event or situation.

What we observe usually leads us to draw conclusions in total conviction that this is the objective truth.

If you’re a participant in an event you will see and remember the situation in a certain way.  Yet that perception is subjective, since every participant will experience the situation from his particular point of view, mindset or cultural background.

An onlooker will naturally see things differently in relation to the participant.  The onlooker only has a superficial view with the underlying details being hidden.  In addition, even this superficial view is dependent on the angle or distance vis-a-vis the situation.

Let’s take a situation that once seemed unimaginable but has become the norm in the past few months.  Picture a grandmother who hasn’t met with her grandchild for weeks or months on end.  The grandchild is finally allowed to visit and runs to Grandma.  It’s only natural that they should share a warm loving hug.  After all what depicts the grandparent-grandchild relationship more than a loving hug?

Freeze the frame.  The child stops short, maintaining a distance.  Is this for real?  Doesn’t she love her grandmother?  Doesn’t Grandma love her?  What is it that stops them from getting closer to each other?  What’s preventing them from sharing that big loving hug?

Social distancing has changed ‘norms’ drastically.  The aforementioned scenario being an example; on the surface it looks like the grandparent-grandchild relationship is disintegrating.  What happened to the love that was shared by them?  Actually, that hasn’t changed.  The love still exists, yet ways of displaying it that we’ve always taken for granted can unfortunately be a health hazard nowadays.  Loving your grandparent these days is keeping at a distance.  And that’s just fine.  Grandparents know that they still love their grandchildren, and the grandchildren know it as well.

To the onlooker it seems cruel; it even looks contradictory to human nature.  Yet in this seemingly heartless scene is the most caring and loving stance that can be shared by both the grandparent and the grandchild.  Clearly, the price is just too high to pay for a simple hug that can result in a life threatening situation.   The key to accepting this is to simply realize that there are no absolute conditions to how we display our love for our parents, children or grandparents.  That makes it so much easier and can help us avoid being drawn into unnecessary and overly dramatic emotional crises.

Can we accept that there are no preset conditions to how we maintain a loving relationship? Yes. Can what seemed to be a non-negotiable mantra be undermined? Yes.  If there’s one thing that Covid has taught us it’s that many preconceived notions can become irrelevant overnight.  There’s a whole new overview of the situation.  We can view the above situation in a new light, being aware that preventive measures are taken with the best of intentions to protect the more vulnerable members of society.  From this vantage point it’s so much simpler to accept that stopping short of that hug is the true display of affection.

Here’s the bonus: It’s not only a display of affection; it’s also an opportunity for the child to practice being considerate of other people’s needs. By relinquishing her short term gratification for the sake of someone else’s well-being, in this case the grandmother’s health, the grandchild learns that her ‘needs’ aren’t all encompassing.

That is the basis for a ‘healthy’ soul and spirit that will lead her to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

About the Author
Chagit Zelcer is a counselor and consultant in the Shefer Approach. Upon training at the Shefer Institute in Jerusalem, she became deeply committed to helping parents discover the joy of confident parenting through workshops as well as private consults. Realizing that many parents aspire to learn the concepts of the approach conveniently and in a user-friendly format she created 'SHEFERCOURSE', the online parenting course in the Shefer Approach in English, which enables parents a comprehensive learning experience from anywhere and at any time. In addition to parenting issues, Chagit also counsels married couples through workshops as well as private consultations in Hebrew and English.
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