Children have emotions and can feel hurt, just like adults. For instance, when they are wrongfully accused or are picked on in class. With all the emotions that they would feel in that moment, they may not realize that forgiveness is an option.
I asked my youngest son, Asher, what he understands by forgiveness, and he replied by giving me the cutest and tightest of hugs. Forgiveness is the decision you make to not feel resentment towards a person that has wronged you.
Teaching children about forgiveness is an essential life tool that will make navigating childhood and adolescence easier. It is essential to teach them because they are more likely to hold on to anger and retaliate against people that have hurt them. If they do not learn early enough, they grow up to become vengeful teenagers who become withdrawn and have low self-esteem.
Below are seven ways for parents to teach their children about forgiveness.
How to Teach Children About Forgiveness
- Be a Role Model, and Mentor
Your children can learn about forgiveness by watching our actions. Therefore, pay close attention to whether you are practicing forgiveness and showing empathic skills that they can emulate. Your children have a front-row seat to your marriage. They see every miscommunication and how each of you reacts when the other make a mistake. Each time you choose to forgive your spouse and work together to move forward, you’re teaching your children a priceless lesson.
- Talk About Forgiveness
It is also important to make it clear to our children what forgiveness is. It helps them understand that their feelings are true and valid. They have to know that they are not excusing the wrong deed done to them by forgiving. Instead, they are accepting the fact that people make mistake and chosen to let go of the resentment feeling they have towards the person that has wronged them. It is also important to talk about how they can ask for forgiveness if they are the ones at fault and how to show true regret rather than just apologizing and saying sorry.
Journaling is a helpful exercise, particularly for teens. Teach your children to express their feelings stating exactly how they feel in a written format.
As they journal, please encourage them to write how they intend to forgive their offender and an empathic statement of the good things the person has done.
Journaling allows your child to release all their feelings out so that there will be no form of resentment in their heart.
We tend to only see our side of an issue, which is our side. We need to teach our children that our side of the story is not the only part, and people have varying views on things. Forgiveness will be easier to teach them when they are open to knowing the full story and the feelings/ views of the other person.
- Allow Them Choose How They Want to Forgive
I cannot remember the number of times we tell our boys that we want them to “make peace” with whomever they are at odds with. By allowing them to figure out what ‘make peace’ means and how they plan to do it, you give them a choice on how they choose to handle their emotions. Sometimes, forgiveness is the right thing to do, even if it does not seem like the other person is deserving of being forgiven.
- Promote Communication
Communication is an important factor in friendships or any relationship. Learning how to communicate properly can be challenging for children. Problems that require forgiveness can often be avoided when communication is strong between two individuals. If communication is a struggle within your family, you should work on re-establishing the lines of communication because of the children. Effective communication avoids the buildup of resentments and to also help solve underlying problems in the family.
Teach How to Handle Anger
Forgiveness and learning how to cope with anger work hand-in-hand. Children can learn to forgive at a very young age, as well as how to cope with anger. As parents, it is essential to establish a home where forgiveness is a common practice. It ensures that children learn how to let go of their anger before it becomes a daily part of their lives.
With a bit of time and patience, you’ll find that your children have learnt the gift of forgiveness.
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