Talking With Teens About Forgiveness

By Shala Munroe
Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Teens sometimes let their hormones get ahead of them, allowing anger and judgment to rule their emotions instead of forgiving and moving forward. Modeling forgiveness helps your teen understand the concept, but talking with him often about forgiveness can help him make it a part of his daily life.

Remove Distractions

It's difficult to get your teen's attention. Even important conversations tend to be interrupted by what she considers and important text or essential phone call. A discussion as important as one about forgiveness needs no interruption. Turn off the TV and leave your phones in another room when you sit down to talk.

Explain Forgiveness

Discuss forgiveness with your teen, explaining the concept of letting go of hurtful emotions from the past. Forgiving isn't the same as forgetting; it simply means you make a choice to no longer be angry or hurt by someone's past actions. If the same person continues to hurt you repeatedly, you can still forgive him, but you don't have to keep spending time with that person and open yourself up to more hurt.

Life Without Forgiveness

When you're hurt or angry, your body tends to respond in a physical way, even in teens. Your blood pressure can increase and you can experience headaches or digestive upset. Continuing to stay angry about a past wrong can lead to depression and leave you short-tempered, according to a 2012 report by ABC affiliate WTXL in Florida. That can affect how you interact with others, especially family and friends. Explain to your teen that letting go of anger helps remove negativity, increasing her chances of being happier.

Regaining Control

Teens often think they have the answers and that they're in control of their lives, to the frustration of most parents. Play into that concept by telling them that forgiveness is about control. If your teen doesn't forgive someone who hurt him, then that person retains control of your teen's feelings by prolonging the hurt. When your teen forgives that person, he is letting go of the hurt -- refusing to let it affect how he acts toward friends and family -- and taking back control of his life and his emotions, according to It doesn't mean your teen is condoning bad behavior; instead, he's refusing to let it lead him toward similar bad behavior.

Give Examples

Use specific examples to help your teen understand the concept of forgiveness. Your teen has likely hurt your feelings at times, so bring up an example without assigning blame. Ask your teen whether she wants you to remember that hurt every day and keep reminding her of it, or if she would prefer you forgive her and move on. Getting your teen to give examples of her own, whether from her own experience or what she's observed through friends, can help her understand how forgiveness can make her a happier person.

About the Author

Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.