You know the scenario: All is peaceful in your home. Suddenly your child, who had been playing in the yard with a friend, storms inside. “Hannah pushed me down!” she screams, as she begins to choke back tears.
Although your child is angry now, and justifiably you learn, she will eventually need to forgive her friend. As a parent, you will want your child to forgive her friend because it’s the right thing to do and necessary for good health.
Studies continue to show that forgiving is a healthy action.
For example, a 2001 study conducted by Dr. Fred Luskin, co-founder of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, found that forgiveness can lead to higher levels of compassion and self-confidence, as well as lower levels of stress and depression.
Although science and wisdom through the millennia have told us that it’s good and important to be able to forgive, teaching children about forgiveness can sometimes be difficult. Consider encouraging your child to forgive others, through these tips:
- Communicate hurtful feelings. As a coping mechanism, some people tend to bottle up their emotions and keep them internal, where they may fester and eventually cause long-term harm to the individual. By encouraging your child to discuss negative emotions right away with someone he or she trusts (most likely you), your child will learn to understand them better. When your child is ready, he or she also should discuss the issue with whoever caused the hurt so that the issue can be resolved.
- Control stressful emotions. Working through the problem can revive a number of negative emotions for your child. Help him or her to find a stress management technique, such as counting to 10 or taking deep breaths. Until the issue is resolved, a stress management technique can help your child to control difficult emotions.
- Demonstrate forgiveness. As you know, children learn what to do and, conversely what not to do, by watching their parents’ actions. If a parent continues to hold grudges and is unable to forgive others, the child will likely copy the parent’s behavior. Although it sometimes might be difficult, parents need to forgive, even if only for their child’s sake.
- Practice makes perfect. As with any difficult scenario, things don’t always go smoothly the first time. Help your child to understand that forgiveness is an ongoing process that we must continually work toward. Sometimes the hurt will not go away and sometimes reconciliation with a person may not be possible, so even if this is the case, explain to your child that forgiveness is still something worth working toward.
If your child continues to have difficulty understanding why he or she should forgive others, enlist other resources. For example, be on the lookout for when the concept of forgiveness is addressed in multimedia, children’s books, cartoons on television, or a movie. Such resources can be great icebreakers for teaching children about forgiveness.