Encouraging Our Kids to Forgive Others Even When It’s Hard
We’ve all seen it — a kid cuts your child off in line for the slide at the playground or your child doesn’t get invited to a friend’s birthday party. Conflict is inevitable in life, and it breaks our heart as parents. But, we need to look at these moments as opportunities to teach our children a very important life lesson — forgiveness! But more specifically, how to lean into God’s strength to truly forgive others.
Forgiveness is an attitude, not an action. It’s an intentional decision to free yourself from holding onto resentment and feelings of anger and revenge. Forgiveness is not being weak — in fact, it’s the opposite. It takes leaning into God’s strength to forgive others, even when it’s hard. These are skills we must teach our children, early on in life, as it’s an essential part of any relationship. For very young children, forgiveness comes naturally. They will forgive their sibling for stealing a toy in about 30 seconds and forget that it even happened. But as children get older, they begin to understand the concept of cause and effect and their feelings will become more fragile. It’s important that we acknowledge these feelings and teach them how to cope through acts of love, respect, empathy, grace, and forgiveness. For children who aren’t exposed to these values, their main way to handle these big emotions is through aggression.
So, how do we teach the concept of forgiveness and encourage our kids to start forgiving others even when it’s hard? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
First, although it seems obvious, make sure your child understands what forgiveness means. Say, “Forgiveness is when we let go of being hurt and upset and try our best to love the person who hurt us, even if they didn’t say sorry.”
– Start small by modeling forgiveness in your home. Use the words “I need to ask for your forgiveness” or “Do you forgive me?” Talk about forgiving their sibling or their dog for taking their toy.
– Discuss scenarios of how someone might hurt their feelings, on purpose or by accident. Then, role play the scenario so they can see first-hand what forgiveness might look like and feel like.
– Since kids relate well to stories, point out examples of forgiveness in books, shows, and movies and talk about what that might have felt like for the characters.
– When conflict arises, encourage them to look at the scenario from the other person’s point of view. This will teach them critical thinking skills as well as empathy.
– Pray with your child. Say, “Dear God, thank you for loving us. Help us to show Your love by forgiving others when they are unkind.”
– Most importantly, talk about the ultimate forgiveness — from God! We have all sinned and we all depend on His forgiveness. He is the perfect model of what forgiveness looks like.
– Read stories of forgiveness in the Bible, like the story of Jacob and Esau. These brothers teach us about the importance of forgiveness and resolving conflicts within a family.
– For a visual representation of forgiveness, check out our Bible2School At Home Resource “Brick Activity: Forgiveness” that uses a brick to show the heaviness of an unforgiving attitude.
It’s important to remember that we live in a broken world and conflict is going to happen, so we can’t shelter our children from this. Instead, embrace it and show them the value of offering forgiveness and the grace of God that we can receive from it! God’s forgiveness for us is immeasurable, and He asks us to live in gratitude for His grace and to let our forgiveness flow freely to others.
Relevant Bible Verses
“But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”
– Genesis 33:4
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
– Ephesians 4:32
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
– Matthew 6:14
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
– Matthew 18:21
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
– 1 John 1:9
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
– Luke 6:37
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
– Colossians 3:13
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