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At what age do kids stop holding their parent's hands?

My 8 year old daughter ALWAYS holds my hand whilst outside. I don't mind, but my partner and older daughter (16) thinks she is too old to be holding hands, so refuse to hold her hand which upsets her.

She has a good relationship with her older sister but thinks it's "not fair" that she refuses to hold her hand.

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    I'm not sure this actually has a definitive answer. Children are typically less physical in affection when they hit teenage years, especially with siblings, and boys less so than girls. But some are very affectionate - so this varies per person. My 13 year old occasionally holds my hand, but is quite happy to hold her sister's or her mother's hand - and yet my 9 year old always wants to hold hands when out walking. – Rory Alsop Oct 28 '15 at 10:36
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    This is very culture-dependent. I have a friend who lives in a country where you routinely see adults of the same sex holding hands as they walk. – Aravis Oct 28 '15 at 14:02
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    As for "not fair," 8 should be plenty old enough to learn to respect her sister's physical boundaries. – Aravis Oct 28 '15 at 14:03
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    I would point out that it would also be "not fair" to force her sister to hold her hand when she didn't want to. Not that refusing to hold someones hand isn't the nicest behavior but its not really rude/mean/unkind either. Maybe use this as a teaching moment that you cant force someone to do something just to make yourself feel better. – user7678 Oct 28 '15 at 16:46
  • Well, my oldest picked up Gabby this evening after school and when she refused the hug/hand holding, Gabby took one massive tantrum which really embarrassed my oldest daughter! When they got home Gabby got a massive row from me and her sister for acting up in public. – Scottish Caitlyn Oct 28 '15 at 17:34
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At eight, this isn't a safety issue any longer -- she is unlikely to wander into traffic or get lost in a crowd. She may be holding hands for her own sense of security, or to demonstrate affection, or for whatever reason she wants to.

If that's fine with the person she wants to hold hands with, then it does not need to be considered an issue. When it is a source of conflict, and somebody else (older sister, parent, etc.) doesn't want to hold her hand, then it's time to have a conversation about boundaries.

She doesn't have the right to force somebody else into physical contact, whether that's holding hands, hugging, tickling, or kissing. She's definitely old enough to understand the notion of boundaries and personal space. She has the right to turn down unwanted physical contact, and she also has the responsibility to respect other people's right to the same.

I'd also suggest that the person who doesn't want to hold hands be a bit more accurate (and considerate) when responding, though. Saying "you're too old for that" is rather disingenuous: is the other person really hoping to hold her hand, but feels obligated to refuse because of the age boundary? I can see why that comes off as sort of unfair -- would the sister also call her childish for wanting a hug? In any case, simply saying "I don't really want to" is more accurate and honest, and reminds your younger daughter that the other person has a right to refuse.

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  • I'm not sure if there's ever an age when you can't get lost in crowd or at least lose the sight of people you were with... This is particulary true if you're smaller than the crowd, which is quite probable when you're 8. – Laurent S. Dec 4 '19 at 15:46

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