Teaching your kids about forgiveness

A child’s developing psyche, emotional understanding and ability to interact with others varies by age and development. Conflicts arise among kids just as they do in adults: They are sometimes forgotten almost immediately, but sometimes the conflict is held onto. Sometimes the anger lingers. This brings up the need to talk about human emotions, forgiveness and letting go.

Mom talking to tween

Of all the things we need to teach our kids over the course of their childhood, a few lessons stand out as particularly difficult. While those topics will vary from family to family, the issue of forgiveness is often right up there. Given that so many adults struggle with forgiveness and moving on from conflict, it’s no wonder! But making the effort to teach forgiveness early on is a real gift you can give to your children. You might even learn a little in the process yourself!

Conflicts happen

From a child’s earliest years, conflicts happen. Whether it’s a conflict with you that results in a time out for your child or a tussle with a playmate over a toy, conflicts happen — and even for the most easy-going child. At younger ages, conflicts are often easily forgotten, but as kids get older, conflicts linger more often.

Whether it’s a disagreement with a best friend over something that happened at school or just about anything else, these conflicts are a microcosm of the conflicts that occur in adult life. Better to learn to forgive wrongs now and resolve conflicts than enter into adulthood angry and hurt!

Simplifying a complex concept

Teaching a child to let go of anger and forgive is not necessarily simple. Heck, it’s even hard for adults! Kids are still wrestling with their understanding of themselves, that they are not perfect and make mistakes and the embarrassment that goes with it. In addition, some kids’ personality traits mean extra resistance to this concept. Helping kids to learn to forgive is helping them to learn about and accept their own imperfect humanity. It’s not going to happen in an instant.

When working with your child to resolve conflicts with friends and family alike, include the concept of forgiveness as part of the discussion — age appropriately, of course You can be clear that this doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting, but it does mean allowing yourself to be open to a more complete resolution and not remaining angry. It means moving on.

Lead by example

One of the best ways to teach kids about forgiveness and letting go of anger in conflict is to lead by example. While it’s fairly easy for a mom to forgive her young child for his or her transgressions — and it’s a start to teaching this concept — they also need to see you forgiving with other conflicts. It’s something you can talk about directly and convey with your manner and attitude. If your child sees you hanging on to anger after a conflict, he or she will absorb that as the “right” way to deal with conflict.

Forgiveness is an important part of life and human interaction, but it’s not used nearly enough. Conflicts happen, and with them the opportunity to learn and grow — if we forgive and let go of anger and allow that growth. Teaching this to our kids can be a challenge, but it’s very worthwhile. Forgive and teach forgiveness for a healthier and more balanced family.

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