When we generally think about forgiveness we tend to think about forgiving others. But the most important form of forgiveness is learning to let go of judgement and forgive ourselves.
It takes patience, practice, time and love to go through this process, but letting go of the guilt can open up our hearts to healing, growth and more love. As Don Miguel Ruiz writes in his book, Mastery of Love, "the supreme act of forgiveness is when you can forgive yourself for all the wounds you've created in your own life. Forgiveness is an act of self-love. When you forgive yourself, self-acceptance begins and self-love grows."
Teaching Children to Forgive Themselves
There is a common theme that runs throughout our blogs about teaching children values. That theme is that all values are taught best by example.
Everyone makes mistakes, and it is good to practice compassion towards yourself and your children. We can all be too hard on ourselves and children will pick up on this and make it habit to treat themselves the same way their parents do. It is good to let your children know that forgiving themselves will help open their hearts and help them feel better.
But before they are able to get to that point, it is best for parents to be there to support them through the process of feeling bad about what they did while being aware to not add to their guilt. Yes, it is important to teach our kids right from wrong and see the consequences of their actions, but once they know they did wrong, it does not help to judge the child and keep punishing them for it. Remember, if you don't like the feeling of someone rubbing your face in a mistake that you have made, your kids probably wouldn't enjoy that either. It is good to always put ourselves in our kid's shoes and see how we would want to be treated if we were them. That way they will learn to do the same for others.
A great way to help your child manage emotions like anger or guilt is to encourage them to talk about their feelings as they feel them. Holding their feelings in never benefits anyone. Help them do this by showing them this great balloon exercise by Annie Reneau from Brilliant Star Magazine. It is a great visual representation of why forgiveness and expressing their feelings is so important to their happiness and wellbeing. Try it out with your children and let us know how it works out for them!
Her article also includes a wonderful lesson plan that discusses forgiveness and all the materials that will be needed to engage in different activities and help children learn to practice to forgiveness. You can teach your children a song, game, craft and role play scenario that can help them practice how to forgive themselves and others. We also love how it suggests a book that will help children learn about forgiveness titled Under the Lemon Moon by Edith Hope Fine. It is a story about a young girl who lives in rural Mexico and has to learn about forgiveness when she discovers that a Night Man is stealing lemons from her special lemon tree. Lee & Low Books provides a wonderfully in-depth teacher's guide on the story that you can use as reference to discuss forgiveness and other lessons that are in the book.
A Tip from Joy: Sometimes it's hard for kids to express their feelings to others. Encourage your kids to take a break and talk to their favorite toy, or draw/write down what they are feeling. Sharing their feelings with their favorite stuffed animal, or drawing it out on paper, may help them use their other senses to express and understand what they are feeling. Give them some privacy, but encourage them to show themselves some love as they learn to let go and forgive themselves for what they did.
Showing their toy some compassion and understanding, or seeing their feelings on paper, may help them take the next step to forgiving themselves for what they did. Empower them to make it better and learn from their mistake. After they have taken some time to reflect and understand their emotions, it may be easier to apologize and make things right. Or, if they have already done that, it can give them the chance to let go of any guilt and move on.
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.
Now that we have discussed more about self-forgiveness and guiding children through the process, our third blog will go more in depth about forgiving others.
Enjoy your week!
-Joy Sun Bear Family