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Monthly Archives: December 2016

7 Smart Year-End Tax Planning Moves

1) Harvest Capital Losses Capital gains property includes stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Currently, the stated rate on long term capital gains is 15%. If you have a net loss after netting all of your gains and losses, the tax deduction is limited to $3,000. Any excess capital losses can be carried into the future.

2) Give Away Appreciated Property

Appreciated property is property that is worth more that its tax basis. The tax basis is generally what you paid for an item. By giving away appreciated property, you avoid the capital gains tax on this asset if you had sold it and then given the cash.

3) Maximize Annual Gifts Taxpayers can make gifts of up to $13,000 per year to an unlimited number of people, without having to file gift tax returns or pay gift tax. Granted, you don’t get an income tax deduction for this. However, these assets will be out of their estate. The federal estate tax exclusion is $5 million and the state of Connecticut exclusion is $2 million. In the current economy, many children and grandchildren need all of the help they can get.

4) Self Employed Individuals Should Consider Establishing a Simplified Employee Pension (“SEP”) While many taxpayers are eligible for an IRA or a Roth IRA, self employed individuals also have the option of establishing a SEP. A SEP allows a taxpayer to contribute the lesser of 20% of net income or $49,000 in 2011. Although, you do have until the due date of the returns including extensions to fund the SEP, it’s good idea to plan now if you will be using this vehicle.

5) Connecticut Taxpayers Should Fund a Connecticut CHET 529 Account

Connecticut taxpayers should fund the Connecticut 529 Plan. This is called the Connecticut Higher Education Trust or “CHET.” Married couples filing a joint return are allowed to deduct up to $10,000 on their Connecticut income tax return.

6) Small Business Owners Should Accelerate Deductions and Defer Income

Many people own a small business; some even run their small business out of a home office. Most of these businesses are on the cash basis of accounting. Look at where you are profit-wise. By accelerating their expenses by paying them now and delaying billing, this will reduce taxable income.

7) Taxpayers Over Age 70 1/2 Should Consider Making Charitable Donations From Their IRA Taxpayers over the age of 70 1/2 can make charitable donations from their IRA. The distribution from the IRA is not included in their income. On the other hand, they do not get a tax deduction for this; they do however get these assets out of their estate. Additionally, this qualifies as part of their Required Minimum Distribution (“RMD”).

ACTION ITEM: Here are 7 Smart Year End Tax Planning Moves. But you better hurry. The year will be over soon.

– See more at: http://www.american-apartment-owners-association.org/property-management/tax-tips/7-smart-year-end-tax-planning-moves/#sthash.uKZk5yz0.dpuf

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3 Reasons 2016 Wasn’t Actually a Flaming Garbage Shit Storm of Pain and Misery

Trust me on this one.

2016 was hard. A lot of really great, innovative, inspirational people died. The country I live in elected an angry Oompa Loompa for President and he’s trying real hard f*ck everything up. Some good people tried to stop an oil pipe line from destroying sacred land and eventually contaminating a major water source, and it didn’t really work. Lots of POC were beaten and killed by cops. Women might have to start getting abortions illegally soon.

Quick aside: if you voted for Trump, you’re already probably upset with this essay. I get it. We don’t share the same opinions and that sucks, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t troll and try to get a rise out of me. It won’t work anyway. You are you, I am me. Nothing I can say will change your mind and nothing you can say will change mine. So just close this tab and go back to whatever you were probably supposed to be doing right now and save your trolling for someone else’s post, k? Thank yewwww.

Moving on.

On a personal level, I had to navigate the kind of treacherous depression, anxiety and heartbreak that most people don’t live through. And I did it sober. There were a couple of months where every day I wished I would get hit by a car as I rode my bike around Minneapolis because it hurt that much to be a person. Some of the people I’ve loved the most have said some of the most hurtful shit I have ever heard a person say and I had to choose to walk away from them. Which was really hard. Because I really like to hang around people who say hurtful shit, you guys. It’s kind of my thing.

Lots of super cool stuff happened, too, for sure. But why focus on any of that? 2016 is a massive trash heap of maggot-infested dead things that no one likes, right?

Wrong.

Yes, 2016 was hard and painful. But I wouldn’t change a fucking thing. Which is good, because I can’t. I’m not writing this to show you that 2016 was actually a great time that you should quit being sad. I would never tell you to do that. I do, however, think 2016 was the realest year we’ve had in a long time. Below, you’ll find 3 lessons we can learn from all the flaming diarrhea thrown at us in the last year. If we do it right, we could change this into the beginning of a great story about how we turned things around and leveled up as a species:

Lesson One: We’re all gonna die, so we better start living like it.

We lost Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, HER MOM DEBBIE REYNOLDS A DAY LATER and many more, this year. This is all very sad, for sure, I’m not sure if you know this, but a shitload of other people are gonna die in 2017 too. Also in 2018. Same for 2019. This is due in part to baby boomers getting older and the fact that being a person is hard, and we, as a culture are taking really shitty care of our bodies and minds.

I don’t want to bum you out even more but some day, you will also die. There is no amount of money, fame, love, joy, yoga, food, whatever that will prevent you from dying. You might be able to stave it off by taking better care of yourself, but ultimately, you have no idea when you’re gonna die. Your death is going to be like life throwing you a surprise party so intense that it actually kills you.

What a trip, right?

So when that day comes, do you want to look back with regret or do you wanna say, “You know what? I screwed up a bunch. I also did great. I loved as hard as I could. I said sorry when I meant it. And I tried a little bit every day to be better than the day before.” That was a rhetorical question. Don’t let all those great artists die in vain. Live as greatly as many of them did in whatever way you can.

Lesson Two: We all need to start going all in.

I have a very serious question to ask you: What have you, as an individual, done in response to literally every other garbage thing that happened this year surrounding things like the election, our environment, police brutality and women’s rights? If your answer is: I tweeted about it, then you’re not doing enough.

Be angry. Be sad. Cry and scream. But there is a point when all the searching for people to blame transitions from grief to wasted energy and only you can decide when that is. It is important to remember that there are people who need our help. Armchair activism is an obvious giveaway that you are trapped in your own personal shame cycle and it is going to shorten your life span.

I get that it can seem overwhelming and you’re not sure how you can help. I also understand that your personal schedule/socio-economic status/fears/traumas will play into what you can and can’t do. At the end of the day, you can perform a 5-second google search and you will be provided with many options that will work for you. If you are afraid that you will not have an impact, you are fooling yourself and being a coward and we all need you to stop doing that right now. Making an impact in one person’s life is better than not making one at all. If you are afraid that you will fail, then I am going to let Brené Brown shut that shit down:

“You can do everything right. You can cheer yourself on, have all the support you can find in place and be 100 percent ready to go, and still fail. It happens to writers, artists, entrepreneurs, health professionals, teachers — you name it. But if you can look back…and see that you didn’t hold back — that you were all in — you will feel very different than someone who didn’t fully show up. You may have to deal with the failure, but you won’t have to wrestle with the same level of shame that we experience when our efforts were half-hearted.”

So, pleeeeaaassssseefortheloveofwhateverthefuckyoubelievein, start going all in. Please. We need you. And that brings me to my final lesson:

Lesson Three: We need each other.

A big part of the reason my bloated corpse is not being fished out of the Mississippi right now is because I asked for help. I asked true, good, loving, warm friends who wouldn’t stop telling me that they loved me when I told them that I just didn’t want to be a person anymore. I stopped engaging with toxic people and I worked really hard to create an inner circle that I could trust.

I also have a therapist and she is my hero.

None of this has been easy, but it has kept me here. Our species was not designed to navigate pain alone. This is undoubtedly a painful time and people need you and you need people. Expressing this need is a beautiful display of vulnerability and takes a massive amount of courage and strength. While all of us came pre-packaged with this strength, some of us have had it beaten out of us by life.

This courage is, however, always within our reach if we are willing to put down our flimsy adult armor and see each other for what we really are: scared kids in big bodies trying to find love and stay alive as long as possible.

So while it feels like things have been crumbling at an astonishing rate and there is no relief in sight, I beg you to remember this overused, but very powerful quote from the late great Leonard Cohen, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” So let’s usher in some game changing light by living like we mean it, going all in and supporting each other along the way.

Tatum Fjerstad is a yoga, meditation and writing teacher who also designs websites and edits and ghostwrites books. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her cat, Gary, and she is well-loved by some really amazing people. To be her new best friend, visit her website.

 

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Three Ways Trump, GOP May Cut Social Security, Medica

960x0by John Wasik –

With President-elect Donald Trump leading GOP control of Congress — and possibly the Supreme Court — what does this mean for your retirement?

Well, it’s unlikely there will be any draconian changes to retirement savings vehicles, but watch out for other potential game-changers. Some of them may hurt your ability to save and achieve financial security in your golden years.

There are some glaring conflicts between what Trump has said in the campaign and retirement policy going forward. Trump, for example, has said he wouldn’t cut Social Security and Medicare, although Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has long pushed for privatizing both programs. That may ultimately cut benefits.

“We’re not going to hurt the people who have been paying into Social Security their whole life,” Trump declared, calling the payment of promised benefits “honoring a deal.”

But the man heading the Trump transition team’s Social Security effort? Michael Korbey, a former lobbyist who has spent much of his career advocating for cutting and privatizing the program, according to Yahoo News.

“It’s a failed system, broken and bankrupt,” Korbey said as a lobbyist in the mid 1990s. Korbey acknowledged that some of the reforms his group backed would hurt retirees, but “our constituents aren’t just senior citizens,” he told a newspaper in 1996. A decade later, as a senior adviser to the Social Security Administration, Korbey was a public advocate for the George W. Bush administration’s failed attempt to privatize Social Security.

Paul Ryan, who represents mainstream Republicans, has long advocated privatizing Medicare. That means dissolving the federally guaranteed fee-for-service program and handing fixed subsidies for retirees to buy private insurance? Would these private plans be affordable? It’s not known, since Ryan has never released specific details.

In addition to handing over Medicare to the private insurance industry, Ryan would raise the qualifying age for Medicare to 67 (from 65 at present) in three years and require that higher-income Americans pay more for insurance.

Another potential loss for retirees would be the repeal of the Affordable Care Act by Trump and GOP Congressional members. At present, the ACA guarantees acceptance for anyone not qualifying for Medicare, so early retirees would be hurt by the loss of the consumer protections, if that part of the law is repealed.

Another retiree protection on the chopping block in the Trump Administration is the Department of Labor’s “fiduciary rule.” Scheduled to go into effect next April, the rule mandated that financial advisers offering retirement advice and products act in the best interest of investors.

Backed by the powerful business lobbies The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the securities and insurance industries, the anti-DOL forces have been suing to scrap the pro-investor rule. Trump and other Republicans had said they want to get rid of the DOL’s signature firewall for retirees.

What will happen if there’s an attack on the DOL rule and other retirement programs? The most immediate impact is that Wall Street and the insurance industry will be selling more overpriced, commission-only products. That will make it harder to save for retirement.

It will also be likely that you’ll be digging into your pocket for health care and retirement income when you can least afford to do so. Nothing, of course, is written in stone in the new Washington. You can always fight back.

 

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2016 was the Arctic’s warmest year on record ‘by far’

BY RUSSELL MCLENDON –

Lofoten, Norway, Arctic Circle

Photo: Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images

The Arctic isn’t quite the winter wonderland it used to be. The region is heating up twice as quickly as the rest of the planet, and it just experienced its warmest year on record, with average surface-air temperatures measuring “by far the highest since 1900,” according to the 2016 Arctic Report Card. As an exclamation point for what’s happening, a Christmas heat wave is expected to send North Pole temperatures soaring far above normal, approaching the 32-degree Fahrenheit (0 Celsius) melting point.

The Arctic has been on the front lines of climate change for a long time, losing its sea ice at a rate unseen in recorded history. But 2016 has been especially sweltering, and the year’s last two months have raised concern among scientists that all this warmth could lead to record-low Arctic ice coverage in 2017. And because the white veneer of sea ice creates albedo, which helps reflect heat from the top of the world, more melting can kick off a feedback loop that triggers even more heat. (FOR YOU REPUBLICANS, THAT MEANS THAT BLACK ABSORBS MORE HEAT THAN WHITE).

“Rarely have we seen the Arctic show a clearer, stronger or more pronounced signal of persistent warming and its cascading effects on the environment than this year,” says Jeremy Mathis, director of the U.S. Arctic Research Program.

November and December normally kick off the season of sea-ice growth in the Arctic, but this November brought a brief retreat of sea ice unlike anything seen in nearly 40 years of satellite records, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, helping November 2016 set a record for lowest sea-ice extent since 1850. The area around the North Pole is typically 95 percent ice-covered by December, but this year’s December coverage has only been about 80 percent. And according to a study released this month, it’s “extremely unlikely” that these events aren’t related to human-induced climate change.

“For all phases of this variability, a warm event like the one of this year would have been extremely unlikely in the climate of a century ago,” the researchers write. “The probability was so small it is hard to estimate, but less than 0.1 percent per year. The model analyses show that the event would also have been extremely unlikely in a world without anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, attributing the cause of the change to human influences.”

2015 was already the warmest year ever measured for the Earth overall, and 2016 is widely expected to break that planetary record. But the Arctic has been heating up at least twice as quickly as the global average, largely due to its feedback loop from lost sea ice. And while this spells trouble for entire Arctic ecosystems — including iconic wildlife like polar bears and reindeer — such dramatic changes in the Arctic will have ripple effects all around the world. As Mathis noted at a news conference this month, we’re all closer to the North Pole than we might think, and now is a good time to heed what’s happening up there.

“We need people to know and understand,” he said, “the Arctic is going to have an impact on their lives no matter where they live.”

 

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Holiday food waste is so high because most us have no clue what we’re doing in the kitchen

by MATT HICKMAN –

Christmas turkey

According to new research by British grocer Sainsbury’s, a shocking number of Christmas turkeys don’t even make it to the table due to cooking mishaps. (Photo: Tim Lenz/flickr)

When was the last time you totally botched Christmas dinner?

Last year? Once, a few years back? Never ever?

If you said never, it’s okay — no need to fib. It happens to the best of us and for a variety of reasons.

Maybe you were attempting to spin too many proverbial plates and got distracted. Maybe your mind was somewhere else (that glass of Cabernet, perhaps). Maybe your visiting mother-in-law was breathing down your neck. Maybe you tried to cut some culinary corners and didn’t fully follow the recipe. Maybe you were distracted, frazzled, rushed or simply don’t enjoy preparing elaborate traditional holiday meals and, as such, half-assed it. Maybe you are indeed a talented cook but have impossibly high standards for yourself and wound up buckling under pressure.

This is all okay — your friends and family will forgive you. Or forget. Ideally, they’ll never even know that an ill-fated side of roasted apples and Brussels sprouts was quietly slipped, in its entirety, into the trash before it had the chance to be presented at the dinner table.

And herein lies a major issue with food waste and the holidays. Food waste levels don’t necessarily skyrocket during the season of curdled eggnog and crying fits in the kitchen because of volume — and the obscene amount of leftovers that result. Mount Rainer-sized mounds of cast-off fruitcake don’t have much to do with it either.

According to new research conducted by British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s and shared by the Guardian, so much waste is generated in the kitchen around Christmastime because a majority of us simply have no clue how to properly cook or prepare certain items. It’s because of this ineptitude that so much food — some of it undercooked, some of it burnt to a crisp, some of it just frightful looking or downright inedible — ends up being chucked during the holidays.

While the Sainsbury’s holiday food waste survey is Brit-centric, the results certainly resonate here across the pond with the most significant takeaway being that this type of food waste is largely avoidable. It’s up to incompetent — and consistently bad — cooks to step away and hand over the reigns to someone who knows what they’re doing and, in turn, are less likely to make rubbish-bound mistakes. Swallowing one’s pride and asking a more seasoned cook for help is another way to curb potential food waste … even if that more seasoned cook is — gulp — that dreaded hovering mother-in-law. Either that, or it’s time to pack it in and consider dining out.

As the Guardian notes, 7 million metric tones of food is collectively thrown away by U.K. household every year with a majority of food waste generated during Christmastime resulting from preventable kitchen mishaps. Turkey — the traditional holiday main in the U.K. given that Brits obviously don’t partake in an unchecked tryptophan orgy just a few weeks prior as their American cousins do — is the most discarded dish with one in 10 respondents admitting to tossing their birds before they even reached the table. Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes are also frequently thrown away, largely due to “improper cooking.”

WRAP, a governmental entity founded to monitor and prevent food waste, estimates that 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings and a staggering 74 million mincemeat pies are thrown away every Christmas in the U.K.

Christmas puddingA plumb shame: An estimated 5 million Christmas puddings are discarded every holiday season in the U.K. (Photo: Jon Roberts/flickr)

Undercooked, burnt to a crisp and all-around inedible

In addition to fouling up their fowl and other dishes, the group of 2,000 adults surveyed by Sainsbury’s are also openly neurotic about serving their Christmas dishes crispy on the outside and raw in the middle. Sixty percent of those surveyed note that their biggest worry while preparing a holiday meal is undercooking while a third fret about burning their festive fare.

All and all, two in every five Brits worry about burning or undercooking their holiday feasts. That figure rises to every three in five when looking strictly at 16 to 24 year olds, an age group that may lack the confidence and culinary finesse of older generations.

While ham, prime rib and seafood are the dominant Christmas dishes in the U.S., the aforementioned turkey with cranberry sauce, along with roast goose, Beef Wellington, bacon-wrapped dates and the ubiquitous plum pudding dominate holiday tables in the U.K. Also, swap out cookie plates for layered sponge cakes known as trifle.

“Food plays a huge part in making the perfect Christmas, but for many of us, due to a lack of kitchen confidence, it’s not just the turkey that’ll end up being completely stuffed,” Paul Crewe, head of sustainability, engineering, energy and environment at Saisnbury’s, tells the Guardian. “Over a third of us will face a festive food fiasco and, whether you’ve spoiled the sprouts or toasted turkey, it’ll be both food and money in the bin.”

Raising awareness of food waste during the holiday season is nothing new for Sainsbury’s, one of several major British grocers that have tackled the issue through both internal waste-curbing schemes and customer-facing campaigns that, among other things, try to spread the love to imperfect-looking — but still perfectly edible – vegetables.

The holiday food waste research was conducted as part of Sainsbury’s £10 million (about $12 million) Waste Less, Save More initiative. A major component of the 5-year scheme is currently taking place in the English town of Swadlincote where the supermarket has invested £1 million in pilot initiatives that aim to reduce the level of food waste generated by the town’s 30,000 residents by 50 percent over a 12-month span. If successful, Sainsbury’s, in partnership with WRAP, will introduce the waste-cutting initiatives tested in Swadlincote nationwide.

As noted by the Guardian, the pilot program in Swadlincote “teaches families — many on benefits and low incomes — new cookery skills as well as practical help in cutting food waste” while also aiming to “improve understanding of nutritional awareness, healthy eating and confidence to cook from scratch.”

Now the time for truth: have you ever found yourself throwing away the main course — or an array of side dishes — of a Christmas meal because you were a bit in over your head or strayed from a recipe?

 

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The Age of Toxicity: The Link Between Stress, Magnesium, & Disease

By Alexa Ericson –
Our world is invaded with toxicity, radiation, and synthetic materials thanks to toxic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, vaccinations, GMO foods, and more. And while mainstream media continues to live under the barrage of government-approved laws, labels, and ideals, there is constant research disapproving the safety of so many things occurring in our world.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 60 percent of adults in the United States aren’t getting the estimated average requirement for magnesium. The recommended daily dietary amount of magnesium is a mere 300-400 mg, however, which is far below how much of this precious and paramount mineral people actually require. This means the average American adult is truly starved of it, leading to both malnourishment and disease.
A truly healthy dose of magnesium ought to be around the 1,000 mg range, due to cellular stresses that cause magnesium levels to drop significantly. Radiation, chemicals, and heavy metals put an incredible amount of stress on organs, tissues, and cells, and without a sufficient amount of magnesium in the body, we cannot filter out such toxins.
So while our level of toxicity increases, our level of magnesium drops, and the result is poor health. From allergic reactions to the flu, to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and neurological concerns, the body reacts to the absence of such a valuable mineral in terrible ways.
As levels of magnesium continue to decline, we must try to understand how we can treat our bodies in a world where we are fighting to keep our health despite our constant exposure to toxicities.
While a supplement may sound like a quick fix, the doses we may require can work against us, loosening the intestines, says Dr. Mark Sircus, who notes in his book Transdermal Magnesium Therapy that magnesium oil is one easy way of increasing our levels of this essential mineral. Applied directly to the skin or put into medical baths for transdermal absorption, he says that, “One can relax in a medicinal bath, without a doctor’s prescription or simply put it on the skin and have someone massage you for sublime effect.”
Mental disorders may also be linked to magnesium deficiency. According to the British Journal of Psychiatry, people who consume a diet heavy in processed foods have a 58 percent higher risk of depression.
They go on to explain that a whole food diet is a necessary avenue for preventing depression, as it consists of consuming foods filled with a variety of important nutrients, whereas one rich in processed foods does not. Dr. Sircus says that along with a whole food diet, people should also be consuming a diet high in magnesium, as without it, our mental and emotional state suffers.
Knowing that our levels of stress are linked to magnesium depletion, it’s even more worrisome to note that a recent poll by Gallup revealed that 67 percent of Americans are consuming more alcohol on a regular basis.
Research has found a serious connection between how levels of stress result in an increased consumption of alcohol. And increased alcohol intake causes an uptick of urinary magnesium excretion soon after ingestion by as much as 260 percent above baseline values. But, the entire problem could potentially be solved if we simply increased our magnesium intake in order to deplete emotional disorders, which would then hinder our desire to consume heavy amounts of alcohol.
Somehow, despite the fact that researchers around the world are well aware of the necessity of magnesium intake, and doctors reach for it as a means to treat patients suffering from heart attacks or strokes, the problem of its depletion as a result of toxicities remains largely ignored. Do the “authorities” really have people’s best interest at heart then? We could be lessening our mental and physical health problems, lowering medical bills sufficiently, and living longer and healthier lives if only we could allow the truth to become a reality.
Is it an issue of population control? Of pharmaceutical companies trying to push synthetic drugs on us to build their empires?  Dr. Sircus notes that, while there are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors antidepressants (SSRIs) and atypical antipsychotics on the market that are being pushed, the reality of the situation is that there is no replacement for magnesium.
 

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This post about kids and consent just sparked a really important debate.

this-is-my-bodyThis post about kids and consent just sparked a really important debate.Kids showing affection to people they’re unfamiliar with is not just about manners.

In July 2015, CNN writer Katia Hetter updated an article she first wrote in 2012 about not forcing her now-7-year-old daughter to hug or kiss anyone, even relatives.

In the article, she candidly explained how she communicated the idea to her then-4-year-old daughter: “I would like you to hug Grandma, but I won’t make you do it.”

Hetter wanted her daughter to learn consent, to know that her body belonged to her and her alone. If she didn’t want to give a person she hardly knew or had just met a hug, she didn’t need to.

The article also included important commentary by Irene van der Zande, the co-founder of Kidpower, an organization that offers tons of resources for youth about personal safety and violence prevention.

“When we force children to submit to unwanted affection in order not to offend a relative or hurt a friend’s feelings, we teach them that their bodies do not really belong to them because they have to push aside their own feelings about what feels right to them,” van der Zande said.

Hetter’s article quickly went viral, sparking an important discussion from parents everywhere.

On Oct. 6, 2016, the Facebook page Safe kids, thriving families reminded everyone of this article by sharing this meme. It was shared over 51,000 times. Later, A Mighty Girl shared the story, too, and over 165,000 people shared it there.

It features a photo of a little girl with a message that reads:

“I Am 5.
My body is my body.
Don’t force me to kiss or hug.
I am learning about consent and your support on this will help me keep myself safe for the rest of my life.”

The reactions to the post were both surprising and incredibly insightful.

People talked about why it may be crucial that we stop and think before making our child kiss or hug someone who’s unfamiliar to them.

 

 

 

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