Children are often very forgiving little souls, although they do tend to hold onto some negative experiences in their lives. So how can we teach kids to forgive and forget, rather than forgive and remember.
There are two types of forgiveness. An optimistic child will forgive someone else’s wrong doing and leave it at that, however some children, that may be prone to low moods, will blame themselves for the any wrongs that were done. As parents or teachers the challenge is to help the child recognise that when they forgive, they need to practice to let the incident go altogether.
On the flip side of this are the children that are resistant to forgiveness. They may be labelled as stubborn, strong willed or distrusting, some of these may be used as terms of endearment. ‘She’s just like her father.’ or ‘It’s her nature.’ All of this is fine, it’s no surprise that some children are more open to the concept of forgiveness than others. Although positive psychology suggests that forgiveness is strongly linked to happiness. Forgiving and letting go can release the stress associated with holding onto a painful experience or a hurtful friendship.
So how can we teach forgiveness? There is no quick fix, although there are strategies. The first part (and most important) is to work with your child and relive the incident and think about the other side. This may not justify the event, but that’s not what we’re working towards, we are working towards forgiveness. The we need to let it go, this can be hard. I like to have a little ceremony, where the child writes down the issue and writes underneath I forgive.
One of the biggest challenges may be self-forgiveness. Children, just like adults, can often be to harsh on themselves. So practising letting go of shame, guilt, anxiety and all the issues that come with it is essential for some more sensitive children.
Forgiveness activities include: