Parenting Resources

Elementary Age Children & Forgiveness

By this age children not only understand apologies, but there is evidence that children respond differently after they have heard an apology. 

Research shows that children who heard an apology were more likely to share with and be kind to the offender during later play – demonstrating their ability to forgive others.

Forgiveness can be taught and several research papers demonstrate that children in elementary schools who were involved in ‘forgiveness intervention’ programs demonstrated increased ability to forgive as well as improved empathy for others.  (Hui EKP, Chau TS.  The impact of a forgiveness intervention with Hong Kong Chinese children hurt in interpersonal relationships.  Br J Guidance and Counselling.  2009; 37(2): 141-156.

The home environment is the perfect training ground to help children learn the power of forgiveness, and research from Dr. Robert Enright demonstrates that siblings who learn to forgive and trust each other as children will have better relationships during adulthood. 

Children who learn to forgive will also be learning the life skill of how to deal with offenses and hurts  they will experience later in life.

  • Don’t try to force forgiveness – you can’t do this.  Instead you can acknowledge the hurt the child experienced and encourage them to forgive when they are ready to do so.
  • Encourage your child to forgive in small ways first so they gradually learn how to handle conflicts. 
  • Talk about how much better it feels inside when we forgive others.
  • Teach your child that forgiveness is not excusing wrongdoing.  Forgiveness does not say the behavior is okay, it says the offended individual is not going to maintain angry and hurt feelings.
  • Forgiveness can be demonstrated in many small ways - by a kind word, a smile, or an invitation to play.
  • Remember to model forgiveness in front of your child.  You and your partner can articulate, “I forgive you” when appropriate so your child sees how relationships are maintained and restored.
  • And – model forgiveness to your child.  Apologize if you have said or done something hurtful and ask for forgiveness.

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