"Forgiveness isn't an occasional act, it is a constant attitude."
-Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s wise quote displays the truth when it comes to any type of forgiveness. Forgiveness isn't something that we learn once and never have to practice again. It starts when we are young and another child pushes us at the playground, and continues on throughout our lives.
As discussed in our last blog, the best thing we can do for ourselves and our children is to practice and demonstrate forgiveness. We do this to show our kids that holding on to anger, pain and negative emotions of any kind only hurts and distracts us from letting ourselves live freely. This is not the same as denying the feelings, or ignoring them, but rather allowing ourselves to experience those negative feelings and then letting them pass.
However, it is good to be aware that just like us, our children have to go through their own process of forgiveness. A lot of times out of care, we want to protect our children from their challenges and fix the situation so we don't see them hurt anymore. But unfortunately, this doesn't help our kids understand why they are feeling anger, disappointment, sadness, etc. It also doesn't allow them to enter the process of being able to forgive and move on.
In her article on PsychCentral, titled How to Teach a Child Forgiveness, Jamie Perillo, LPC says, "Teaching your child to forgive is an essential life tool that will make navigating childhood and adolescence easier. Holding on to anger and resentment is a recipe for anxiety and depression for children and adults. The earlier forgiveness is taught, the earlier you can prevent children from taking on the victim role. That in turn helps prevent anxiety and depression." She then lists 7 different ways to teach your children forgiveness including, helping them learn and understand why they are feeling what they are because until they do, they won't be able to begin the forgiveness process.
She also includes a visualization exercise that uses a pretend balloon to help kids practice letting go of any unpleasant emotions and a written exercise for older kids to write out their feelings to themselves and the person they are trying to forgive. If you have a younger child who isn't fully writing yet, you can ask them to draw a picture to express themselves, like the one above, drawn by a 6 year old girl who wanted to show forgiveness when she was pushed by classmate.
Another important lesson to teach our children when they are upset at another person is to think about what that other individual may be going through and why it led them to do something hurtful.
Was the other child being bullied or feeling left out?
Did they possibly act out negatively to get attention and not feel lonely?
Talking about this can help your child see the situation from both sides and learn compassion. Although that doesn't condone the action of the other child and your child may still feel angry or hurt, teaching them to become aware of the other person's position will help them open up to forgiveness when they are ready.
"One time, my sister climbed my favorite tree and used my nest, that's where I've bunched up some branches to lay on. But my nest wasn't big enough for her and it broke. I was very angry with her, even after she apologized and offered to help me build another one. I was so angry, that I didn't accept her apology, or her help.
When I tried to rebuild it alone, I couldn't get it right. I think my anger was distracting me. After I took a break, I talked to my sister and told her how I felt. Then I told her I accepted her apology and wanted her help.
And it turns out, that's what I needed! With my sister's help, we built an even bigger and better nest that we could both sit in! Letting go of my hurt feelings let me fix the problem with the bear I was mad at."
We wanted to share this great video by Singapore Kindness Movement that your children can enjoy to learn more about forgiving others.
A Question for You and Your Kids
We have a great question for you and your kids and would love to hear from you:
How did you feel when you were forgiven or forgave someone?
Share your response with us in two ways:
Comment on this post below.
Have a wonderful week!
-Joy Sun Bear Family