Teaching your children how to forgive not only encourages them to express kindness toward and acceptance of others but also frees them from hanging onto unnecessary hostility. A lesson in forgiveness provides a social value and benefit that will last throughout a child's lifetime. Children find it difficult to understand abstract concepts such as forgiveness and learn best through concrete examples. Once children understand the meaning of forgiveness, they can apologize and empathize with sincerity.
Every day, parents have the opportunity to model forgiveness. Introducing the term "forgiveness" and using it in context regularly, familiarizes children with this practice. They take comfort in knowing that you forgive them for mistakes, whether accidents, such as spilled drinks, or intended offenses, such as name calling. These moments present an occasion for demonstrating forgiveness. Working together to create a forgiveness chart for the family also provides children with a game for learning to forgive. Add stickers to the chart for family members who model forgiveness, including children.
By presenting your child with hypothetical scenarios for forgiveness, you allow him to better understand when to forgive. Asking your child what he would do if you accidentally broke his favorite toy or forgot to hug him goodbye prepares him to deal with real-life experiences that call for forgiveness. Then, when faced with frustration, your child will have a reference to help him forgive.
Feelings of anger stand in the way of forgiveness. Children who learn to properly express and manage anger function better in social situations and forgive more easily. Use strategies to diffuse anger in children, such as allowing them to paint a picture, bang on a drum or stomp their feet. These activities reduce stress and make it easier for children to forgive others without harboring animosity toward them.
Sometimes children better understand a complicated value such as forgiveness after seeing it acted out. By using puppets at home, parents can put on meaningful skits that revolve around forgiving others. While watching the puppets work out their differences and display words and strategies for working through a problem, children learn important lessons for socialization. Having a conversation about what the puppets did and said gives your child a chance to express his understanding of merciful behavior.