Moving Forward: Modeling and Teaching Children About Forgiveness
We can all think of a time that we have been hurt in some way by the actions of others. Likewise, we also can reflect on a time where we may have said or done something and immediately wished for a “redo” button. In some of these situations we may have been able to easily forgive or be forgiven by the other individual(s) involved. Other times, we have found it much harder to forgive. In fact, there may be a person in your life (or not in your life) that you are having a hard time forgiving.
So why forgive? You may feel it is the right thing to do, you want to be compassionate, and you may hope that the person’s behavior will change for the better. While we often think of forgiveness in terms of how it will impact our relationships with others, let’s also remember that forgiveness can be a powerful tool to help ourselves. Forgiving others can actually be giving yourself one of the greatest gifts of all: the gift of freedom.
Forgiveness can be defined as a conscious choice and an act of strength. It is important to note that forgiveness is a process that can take time, patience, and commitment. By forgiving others, you allow yourself to begin the process of healing and letting go of negative emotions such as anger, resentment, jealousy, and even self-loathing. Forgiveness is a multifaceted concept and can be challenging for even adults to work through. Starting to teach your children about forgiveness at a young age will help them be able to meet challenges as they arise. Here are a few ways to help teach your children at home about forgiveness:
1. Model Forgiveness- We are quite familiar with the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do.” While teaching your children about forgiveness is certainly important, we do not want to inadvertently be sending them this message. Children are like sponges and they are observing what we are saying and doing constantly, even when we wish they would rather not be. At home, children will first learn about the concept of forgiveness by observing how parents handle disagreements between themselves. Modeling will help children gain a better understanding of what forgiveness means and why it is important.
2. Forgiveness is a Process- It is important to discuss with your children the benefits of forgiving someone, and in this discussion, share with your child that forgiveness is a process that can take time. If children feel pressure to forgive when they are not ready, they are learning to put their emotions aside and not work through the hurtful situation. Spending time with your children to help them process the emotions they are feeling will allow them to take steps to move forward from the situation that occurred.
3. Creating Healthy Boundaries- A concept that you may not think of right away when you think of forgiveness is healthy boundaries. However, talking to your children about the importance of being treated with love and respect in relationships and modeling healthy boundaries is crucial. This will help your children to create their own healthy boundaries as adults. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting about a situation or minimizing what occurred. It also does not signify that you are condoning negative behaviors. Setting healthy boundaries will help children and adults decide what forgiveness means for them and what they need to do to help them move forward so that they can think happy and live healthy.
At Think Happy Live Healthy, we work with our clients to help support them on their paths to healing and forgiveness.
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