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I received this question from a reader, and with her permission, I’m answering it here on the blog.

Dr. Naumburg,

My older daughter (who I’ll call #1) is seven years old, and her sister (#2) is four and a half. #1 is consistently friendly, compassionate, and helpful to other kids, but the moment she’s with her younger sister, it’s a different game. #2 is very affectionate physically and verbally, but her big sister just doesn’t reciprocate. If #2 even tries to hug her she will shrug it off violently and say “Stop! Get off of me!” My youngest now knows to ask, “Can I give you a hug?” but the answer is always “No.”  Recently the youngest said, “She never lets me touch her, she hates me.”

I’ve explained to #1 that it’s nice for loved ones to express their love with touch and words. That you don’t always need to let them, but sometimes it’s really nice. I’ve explained that allowing her little sister to hug her would make both of them feel good. I feel for the little one, who is always being rejected, but I also can’t force hugs if they aren’t wanted.

Any suggestions?
Sincerely, Hugless at Home

You can read my response to this question over at my Mindful Parenting blog on PsychCentral.