How to teach your child forgiveness

by Laurel Pretorius
How to teach your child forgiveness
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Is forgiveness one of life’s most vital skills to teach our children and if so, how do we go about teaching them how to forgive? By Laurel Pretorius.

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as “a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

So, why forgive someone of a wrongdoing if it isn’t deserved? Because learning to forgive people for the smallest and biggest transgressions, is in fact one of the healthiest acts we can perform. As adults, we must learn to forgive so that we can teach our children the act of forgiveness.

In this modern age, forgiveness has become an increasingly vital skill, especially since we are living in a time marked by rapid change, interconnectedness, and diverse perspectives. Indeed, forgiveness has become a powerful tool for personal growth. It serves as a bridge that connects people and it allows for open dialogue, healing, and reconciliation.

Burden free

Mental Health Counsellor, Shalom Grays from Back2Life Counselling, defines forgiveness quite beautifully. He says, “I would describe it as an aura, like love, that emits a glow from within, lightening the person giving or receiving it. It’s as if the soul has been freed from burden and again can express itself and wrap itself around us to let us know that we can live and learn without pain, that forgiving is a wonderful emotion not to be misused or kept in the dark, but freed, that through forgiveness we grow more aware of our environment, the universe and the power that guides us.”

So, one could say that forgiveness is not merely an act of condoning or forgetting a wrongdoing, but rather, it’s a conscious decision to release the negative emotions tied to a hurtful experience. It enables individuals to move beyond resentment and anger, and instead, embrace compassion and understanding. “Not to forgive shields us from that connection, like a negative cloak. Forgiving, sheds that cloak and connects us to a greater source,” adds Grays.

Empowering yourself

More than ever, as parents, we should actively be teaching our children from a young age that it is not only good to forgive but it is also an act of liberation. It teaches our kids to foster empathy, and build harmonious relationships, two things that are desperately needed in our world today.

Imagine never letting go of a traumatic event in your life, giving it the power to hold you back, committing you to a life of constant bitterness and resentment. Would you want that for your child? Forgiveness is the key to releasing us from all our past traumas, big and small.

Or as Grays says, “Forgiveness is a tool that enables freedom. It allows the person asking and the person giving the ability to remove the chains and anguish that links them. As the one forgiving, you relieve yourself of the internal psychological infestation that has been growing deeper within your unconscious. Forgiveness allows healing, it promotes humility and even-mindedness that can be kept as a learnt behaviour for other past or future issues.”

So, by providing our children with the tool of forgiveness we are equipping them with some incredibly important life skills, including:

  • the ability to navigate the complexities of human relationships;
  • learning that conflicts and mistakes are inevitable, and holding onto grudges only perpetuates negativity;
  • empowering them to rise above the hurt and find resolution;
  • building emotional resilience and mental well-being;
  • cultivating a sense of empathy and compassion by understanding different perspectives;
  • fostering a sense of tolerance and an appreciation for diversity;
  • realising that forgiveness is a choice they have the power to make, therefore giving them a sense of personal agency.

An invaluable skill

Teaching your children forgiveness is an ongoing process that requires patience and consistency. Be supportive and reinforce the positive outcomes of forgiveness whenever possible. Keep reminding yourself that slowly but surely you are instilling in them a valuable skill that will contribute to their emotional intelligence and overall well-being through life.

Here are five important ways parents can teach their children about forgiveness:

  1. Lead by example: Show forgiveness through your own words and actions.
  2. Explain the concept: Teach your child what forgiveness means and its purpose.
  3. Encourage empathy: Help your child understand others’ feelings and perspectives.
  4. Teach resolution: Guide your child in resolving conflicts peacefully.
  5. Foster a positive environment: Create a family culture that values forgiveness, understanding and communication.

In a world where conflicts and misunderstandings are prevalent, the ability for our children to forgive is crucial for building and maintaining healthy relationships. It will allow them to repair damaged bonds, restore trust, and move forward with a renewed sense of understanding and respect. Forgiveness will teach our children about introspection and how to self-reflect. It will help them learn from their own mistakes. It is the ultimate tool for developing personal growth.

Or as Iyanla Vanzant once said: “Forgiveness is the key to unlocking the door to happiness and inner peace.”

Let’s teach our children the act of forgiveness so that they are able to walk through life with a sense of freedom in their step and happiness in their heart.

Read more here about apologising

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