Talking With Teens About Forgiveness

The art of forgiveness – called an art because it takes skill, determination and love – can be challenging to learn and practice. If your teen struggles with forgiveness, talk about the importance of letting go of pain. Teach him that forgiveness can free him from the bondage of past hurts and future bitterness.

Acknowledge Pain

Connect with your teen to acknowledge his pain and provide meaningful empathy. Allow your teenager to express his feelings if he wants to talk, listening without judging. By accepting your teenager’s feelings, you validate them and help him feel heard and understood. Encourage your teenager to express his emotions and feelings, if he’s feeling stuck. Expression might involve writing in a journal, writing a letter, drawing pictures or expressing the emotions verbally.

Forgiveness is Personal

Although it might seem like forgiveness is a gesture you make toward someone else, it’s really a personal action you make for yourself. The Dr. Phil website counsels that forgiveness benefits you, not the person or people you are forgiving. Help your teenager see the difference between choosing to let go of perceived wrongs and condoning or approving of those wrongs. Your teen needs to understand that forgiveness does not involve approval of wrong-doing, instead it is a personal decision to move forward away from the pain.

Forgiveness Frees

Help your teenager see that once he identifies and expresses his feelings, it’s time to let them go. Unresolved negative feelings, including pain, betrayal, frustration, guilt and fear, can debilitate and affect anyone if left unresolved. The conscious act of forgiveness releases the negative feelings and frees you from suffering because you refuse to allow yourself to dwell in the negativity. The Dr. Phil site calls this “emotional closure” -- the pivotal point where you close the door on the pain after identifying and expressing it.

Forgiving Your Teen

As a parent, you might find yourself in a position of explaining forgiveness to your teenager from the other side of the equation. If your teenager has made mistakes that violate your trust in him, you'll need to forgive him. Mark Gregston, author, pastor and founder of Heartlight Ministries, warns that withholding forgiveness from your teen can have serious repercussions 1. Your teenager might follow your example of not forgiving, which could create a barrier between you and your child. While consequences for misbehavior and violating trust are necessary, focus your attention on the behavior and not on your teen as a person. Carry through with consequences, communicate your feelings of frustration and betrayal and then be willing to move past it and let your teenager try again. If you perceive that your teenager is not willing to adhere to family rules, you might need to seek professional help.