Children are often asked to forgive: forgive their sibling for grabbing a toy; forgive mom for being late; forgive a friend at school for pulling out their hair. When we teach a child about forgiveness, do we really insist on the repetition of words like ‘sorry’ and ‘I will never repeat this again’ or are we really particular in teaching them to let go of things?
It is important for children to understand compassion, kindness, and forgiveness. By instilling the virtue of kindness in our child, we help the child to use an essential life tool in navigating through childhood and adolescence in an easier way. Holding on to anger will lead to anxiety and depression for children and adults. The earlier forgiveness is taught, the earlier we can groom the child to grow up as an individual free of anxiety and depression.
There is also a misconception that forgiving means forgetting, which might bring on the fear that it will happen again. In order to forgive sometimes we need to look beyond the action and understand the person. Helping your child understand a possible trigger for the person’s actions encourages compassion and forgiveness. Here are some thoughts which we as parents can ponder on to inculcate forgiveness in children.
Understanding the feelings of your Child
Before asking our child to forgive, let go or excuse a behaviour, it is first important to identify the feeling your child is experiencing. Is he or she frustrated, angry, embarrassed, or disappointed? The child first needs to understand how he/she feels before they really forgive. Instead of asking our child to immediately accept their sibling’s “I’m sorry,” have them clearly express how they feel. For example, your child should be able to say, “Sam, I am really upset that you have taken my notebook without my knowledge. Next time, please let me know when you need one.’
Give It Time
We can’t force our children to forgive someone. If we pressure them to say something when they don’t mean it, nothing gets solved. Explain the importance and the benefits of forgiving, however the actual act must come from their heart and not our demands. Give it time.
Perspective : able to see things from the other side
We need to teach our kids proper perspective—to be able to see things from the other side. For instance your child has a good friend who has suddenly stopped talking to your child She feels lonely and betrayed. All your daughter knows is what she’s feeling, but that’s only half the story. Help her to think about what her friend might be feeling. What made her keep away from your daughter. We don’t know. Let’s insist to our children that we should not jump to conclusions. Forgiving is much easier when we know the whole story and not just half of it.