As a parent, there’s a mind-boggling array of things to think about, from promoting positive body awareness to being kind to others. Some things are easy to pass on, but other lessons are a bit more complicated.
Forgiveness definitely belongs to the latter camp, and it’s important to make sure you really think about what message you’re giving your child. Psychologists agree that forgiveness is integral to having a healthy mental state, but it’s not something that should be given through gritted teeth!
With this in mind, here are 5 Lessons of Forgiveness For Kids.
1) Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness
When you’re locked into a clash of wills, or have been involved in a heated argument, it’s so easy to get caught up in who was in the right. If you feel the other person has been unfair to you, a burning sense of injustice can stop you taking a step back and assessing matters with a cool head.
As a child, this can be the case even more, and there may be a reluctance to forgive the other person as it’s perceived as “losing”. This is where they’re going to need a bit of help from you.
It’s tough being a parent and remembering all the things you shouldn’t do in front of your child can be dizzying. But when it comes to forgiveness, you’ll need to lead the way and show them how it’s done, be an example.
One good way to overcome the feeling of forgiveness being unfair is showing your child they can explain why they were angry, and then follow Elsa’s example and let it go (any other parents with child Frozen fans here?!). For example, “Tom, I am upset that you took my toy train when I was playing with it. Please wait until I am finished playing with it next time. I forgive you.”
Giving a reason, and then drawing a line under the episode allows the matter to blow over without the child feeling as if they’ve come away as “the loser”.
2) It’s easier to forgive when you think about what’s really going on
In the aftermath of an argument, it’s hard to think about forgiving the other person, particularly if they’ve been unkind. Children often see things in black and white terms so it can be difficult to persuade them to consider forgiveness at times.
However, sometimes things aren’t so clear cut and as parents we can help to show our children what’s really going on.
That child that refused to come out and play with you? He was feeling sad because his tummy hurt. And the one that pushed you just now? She didn’t even see you because she was running past in excitement because it was time to play on the slide!
Learning that there’s often more to behavior than meets the eye is a lifelong lesson – and something that even adults find hard! But by starting young, you’ll be setting your child up well to think beyond what’s immediately obvious.
3) Forgiving is not the same as condoning
Being the bigger person and taking steps to resolve matters can involve complicated emotions. Even as an adult it can be difficult to truly forgive someone if you believe that their behavior was wrong.
However, forgiving someone isn’t the same thing as saying that what they did was OK, and this is one of the most important aspects to get across to kids.
Deciding to forgive someone means you are actively making a choice to move on. When you talk to the child, it’s essential to explain that forgiveness isn’t always easy and you might still feel upset, but that’s OK. choosing to forgive the other person means that you are going to make a conscious effort to forget about it, even if you didn’t like their behavior.
This can be tricky for kids to grasp so it’s something you might need to go over a few times.
4) Forgiveness stops problems from escalating
Anger is a destructive emotion and holding it inside can hurt you; forgiveness is a way of looking after yourself.
You can demonstrate this with a balloon. Puff a small amount of air inside; this represents anger. Letting the air out is forgiveness; see how the balloon gently returns to its original shape? Now, puff lots of anger aka air inside until the balloon is bursting full; what happens when you let it go? It flies around the room in a frantic whirl of destruction. This represents too much anger being held in and the resulting consequences.
Using the balloon as a visual tool can really help a child understand the damaging effects of anger, and how forgiveness can help to heal.
5) Forgiveness isn’t always easy
No matter how much damage staying angry does forgiving someone isn’t always easy, particularly if the matter is more serious.
For a child, this may simply be breaking their favorite toy – any parent will know how catastrophic this can be!
When the fallout is more than just a cross word or a perceived insult, making a conscious choice to forgive doesn’t come naturally.
Suppressing emotions isn’t healthy either so it’s important to recognize how your kid is feeling. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, and why they are upset. If possible, discuss what could be done to make them feel better. If negative emotions persist, writing a letter or for younger children, drawing a picture about why they are feeling upset can be a cathartic way of releasing their feelings, and allowing them to move on.
Be an example
Sometimes the lessons we need to teach our kids are those we are struggling with ourselves. However, it’s important to try and lead by example and in doing so, while we are trying to teach our kids we work on ourselves a little too.
About the Author:
Matt Morrisey is a former teacher who has travelled all over the world teaching children English, from China to the UK Matt is well known. Matt’s parents are teachers and his only brother works for a children’s charity in UK.
Matt currently writes for www.starwalkkids.com and loves to write about parenting topics ranging from kids’ toys, activities for kids, parenting hacks and lifestyle. He loves remote-control drones and can’t wait until he opens his window to allow a drone to enter with an Amazon package. Not long now.
His work has been read by readers all over the world and features on blogs and websites all over the world. Matt recently decided to go back to university to do his PhD where he looks to continue his career.