Career & Education

Teaching your child how to forgive

Sunday, August 04, 2019

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It may not occur to us, parents, that forgiveness and compassion are virtues that we have to teach our children. Yet, it is a fundamental life tool that promotes peace, empowers your child, and ultimately leads to their strong emotional health.

Given the realities of life and relationships which manifest in people hurting us and we ourselves hurting others, forgiveness is best taught at an early age so that by the time they get to adulthod, children would have been sufficiently prepared to overcome the difficult situations which will inevitably come.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, “… the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”.

Forgiveness frees the offender from guilt, while also freeing the victim from resentment and anger. It is a decision and not a feeling. If we do not forgive others, we deepen the wound and our own lives become poisoned by anger, bitterness and resentment which only get magnified over time. Absolution is therefore necessary for maintaining long-term friendships.

Situations could be as simple as being accidentally pushed and hurt on the playground. This may cause your child to get angry, resent the pusher, or be tempted to get even with the offender. But accepting an apology and letting go of the resentment is a much better option, as it de-escalates a cycle of conflict and disconnection.

Giving second, or even third and fourth chances provides opportunity for someone to right the wrong that was done. Children are not 'bad' if they do 'bad' things. They may be hurting, or they may simply have made a poor choice. All of us make poor choices from time to time; it proves that we are human.

A critical part of forgiveness, too, is being able to forgive oneself for poor choices made. This is important for self-love.

Here are some tips to help your children embrace and practice forgiveness:

1) Define forgiveness - There are many ways to describe forgiveness to children. Reading stories that demonstrate forgiveness in action is a great way. Explain that when you forgive, you cancel a debt. It is an act of love, mercy and grace. It does not mean that if it's a dangerous situation, like cases of abuse, that we will put ourselves back in harm's way. Neither does it mean that we approve of the wrongful action. It simply means that we are letting go of the hurt and pain that was caused so that we are free.

2) Model forgiveness - The family serves as the best example of forgiveness. Since no one is perfect, it the place where behaviour that is practised by parents is modeled by the children. It may be that one parent is forgiving, while the other parent isn't. This will pose challenges as your child will most likely model the parent with the stronger personality. However, it is important that your child sees that you are able to forgive others when you are wronged.

3) It's not about being right - Be sure that your children understand that forgiving someone does not mean that the person's actions are correct or justified. It simply means that one chooses to let go of the bitterness and anger. If one is filled with bitterness, then that will be given to others.

4) Don't make stipulations - There should be no conditions when we are forgiving someone. Otherwise, it becomes extortion.

5) Teach perspective - Explain to your children that it may be necessary to view the situation from the other side. Forgiving is easier once we know the full story.

6) Admit your own mistakes - As parents, we make mistakes too. Perhaps we lost our temper at some annoying behaviour displayed by our child. After we cool down however, we should apologie and ask for forgiveness.

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools . She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, biochemtutor100@gmail.com or khylton.com .


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