Forgiveness is something we all need because forgiveness brings freedom. It’s a crucial life lesson and one we need to teach our kids. There are four facets to teaching our kids about the value and steps of forgiveness. These are:
1. . Create a safe environment
2. Highlight the benefits of forgiveness
3. Teach the method
Creating a safe environment
Processing forgiveness needs a safe environment because having to forgive someone typically involves hurt and pain. When we approach our kids in talking about forgiveness, we need to be deliberate. Dr. John Chirbin, Harvard professor and board member for Dr. Phil, shared data that only 49% of divorced parents believe they are having meaningful conversations with their kids. Less than half of single parents feel like they are engaging in important ways with their kids. However, their kids reported a different number. Of the kids surveyed, 76% said they are NOT having meaningful or important conversations with their parent, 80% don’t share their feelings with their parents, and 85% feel alone. These statistics are sobering. As single parents, it is imperative that we engage in important meaningful conversations with our kids.
A key starting point is providing a safe environment for our kids to share openly, honestly, and emotionally with us. This doesn’t happen by accident. We must make time for it. Don’t approach them during a busy or rushed time. Be prepared to wait. We can’t force connection, but we can provide a space for it. Go where they are and be present. Show up consistently and wait for them to talk. And when they do talk, listen, and don’t shame them for their feelings. Don’t react defensively or try to fix things. This kind of intentional opportunity to connect is what God gives to each of us. When we provide the same safe place for our kids, we open opportunities for important conversations like that about forgiveness.
Highlight the benefits of forgiveness
Forgiveness is something that God commands but there are real benefits. Robert Enright and Richard Fitzgibbons wrote in Psychology Today that “Forgiveness is a choice to let go of anger toward someone who hurt you and to think, feel, and act with kindness toward that person.” They continue noting that, Forgiveness is not being weak. It takes strength and courage. It is not forgetting, condoning, or putting up with being hurt. You can forgive while still seeking justice. And forgiveness is different than reconciling. You can forgive without receiving an apology.”
Forgiveness is a choice that frees us from attachment to hurt. It’s not about the offending party, it’s about us. The benefit in forgiveness is being released from the day to day weight of what was said and done. When we forgive, we are set free from that burden. Not only that, but the process of forgiveness brings resilience, strength, and courage.
Teach the method
Teaching our kids how to forgivee prepares them for life. Inevitably, hurts and offenses will come and knowing how to forgive is a necessary skill. If we want to raise emotionally intelligent kids who know how to have healthy relationship, we must teach them how to forgive. There are four steps to forgiveness:
1. We have to acknowledge the offense
2. It’s a deliberate choice, not a feeling, that does not excuse behavior.
3. Get rid of external expectations. The person who offended us does not have to apologize or recognize what they have done. We must choose to forgive without expectation.
4. Pray for the offending party.
Teaching our kids about forgiveness includes creating a safe environment for important conversations, highlighting the benefits, and teaching them the method to forgive. A final facet of teaching our kids about forgiveness is modeling it ourselves. Our actions speak volumes to our kids. We’ve all heard that kids learn more from what they see in us rather than what we say. While our words are important, much of what our kids learn is caught not taught. When we as parents do the intentional work of forgiveness ourselves, our kids see this and can learn from our example. Talk about the hard things we deal with but show grace to other people. As parents, we must follow the steps of forgiveness ourselves so our kids can follow our example.
As you provide a safe environment to have meaningful conversations with your kids, we would be honored to be part of your support network. Join our Solo Parent Society community by participating in one of our online groups meeting every week. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@soloparentsociety). Subscribe to our weekly podcast via AccessMore or wherever you get your podcasts, and download our Solo Parent app FREE in the app store. We love to connect single parents to resources that offer hope and help. If you want to donate so we can reach more single parent families, go to www.soloparentsociety.com. Questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.