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Therapist Thanksgiving Tips: Don't Force Kids To Hug Guests

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With news of sexual misbehavior and politics on many people's minds, a family therapist offers advice on dealing with potentially stressful situations at the holiday table.

According to Joyce Marter, a licensed psychotherapist and founder of Urban Balance, which provides comprehensive counseling services, if children don't want to hug, kiss or show other forms of physical affection to a relative or guest, don't force them to.

"I think it is important for parents to remember not to request, or require even, that their kid hug or kiss other family members -- just to be kind and polite and respectful is enough. If the kids want to express affection, that's fine, but that's their choice," she said.

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Marter added it's important for kids, girls and boys alike, to feel safe and comfortable in setting boundaries with others in terms of their own bodies. She recommends parents talk with their children about how they wish to show affection ahead of holiday gatherings.

As for politics, another hot topic, Marter suggests making holiday parties "politics free zones."

According to a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll released Wednesday, 58 percent of Americans who celebrate Thanksgiving dread the thought of having to talk politics around the dinner table.

11 percent are eager to talk about the subject with their family and friends, and 11 percent are unsure, the study says.

Regardless of political party identification, the majority of Americans do not look forward to political debates during the holiday, the study says.

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