Teaching the Value of Forgiveness to Kids

Teaching children the value of forgiveness is an important life lesson that can help them develop empathy, compassion, and emotional resilience. Forgiveness is not about condoning or excusing hurtful behavior; instead, it is about letting go of negative emotions and moving forward more healthily and positively. If your child needs guidance on forgiving, here are some tips below about teaching forgiveness. 

Lead by example

Children learn best by observing the behavior of adults around them—model forgiveness in your actions and words. When you make mistakes or have conflicts, show your child how to apologize and seek forgiveness genuinely. This can occur in simple moments when you make a mistake or have a conflict at home. Own up to your mistake by making it a point to forgive out loud, showing your child the process of forgiveness. The best way they can learn is to see you forgive in action. 

Encourage empathy

Help children understand the feelings of others by encouraging them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Discuss how specific actions may have hurt others and how they would feel if they were in that situation. Life happens quickly, but take the time to pull your child aside to discuss their actions and their impact on others. Teaching empathy at a young age will benefit them later in life. 

Discuss the concept of forgiveness

Use age-appropriate language to explain what forgiveness means. Emphasize that forgiveness is about letting go of negative feelings and not seeking revenge. It does not mean forgetting the incident or condoning hurtful behavior. If your child has difficulty letting the negative feelings dissipate, try breathing exercises to help calm their nervous system down. Or, practice grounding techniques with them, imagining roots going down from the bottom of their feet into the ground/ earth. Try coupling the breathing exercises with grounding techniques for the best results. 

Validate their emotions

If your child is upset or hurt, acknowledge their feelings and let them know it’s okay to feel that way. Validate their emotions before discussing forgiveness as an option for healing. It’s imperative that your child feels heard and seen while experiencing these big emotions. Try putting their feelings into colors, shapes, or ideas to allow them to practice and feel comfortable talking about their emotions. 

Teach problem-solving skills

Help children learn how to resolve conflicts peacefully and effectively. Teach them communication skills, compromise, and active listening to prevent misunderstandings and reduce the need for forgiveness. We are all human, and mistakes will inevitably happen. The best we can do is to prepare our children to resolve conflict as best as possible.

Use stories and role-play

Stories and role-playing can be powerful tools for teaching forgiveness. Read books or watch movies that portray characters forgiving others and discuss the outcomes. You can also act out scenarios where forgiveness is the central theme.

Avoid shaming or blaming

When children make mistakes, focus on the behavior rather than labeling them as “bad” or “naughty.” This approach fosters a sense of responsibility and a willingness to make amends. 

Create a supportive environment

Foster a loving and understanding atmosphere at home and in other social settings. Children are more likely to embrace forgiveness when they feel safe and supported. Foster this environment whenever possible. 

Remember that teaching forgiveness is not about pushing children to forgive immediately. It’s about providing them with the tools and understanding to make healthy decisions about their emotions and relationships. As they grow and develop, they will begin to grasp the value of forgiveness and how it can contribute to their overall well-being.