How to Teach Your Tween About Forgiveness

Forgiveness isn't easy for children to understand or master.
Help your tween understand forgiveness by modeling it in your own home. Photo: Crissy Pauley,

Growing up isn't an easy process and your child will likely encounter betrayal or other disappointments that they will have to overcome. When your tween is hurt or feels betrayed by a friend, sibling, teacher, or even you, he will have to eventually learn how to forgive and move on. But forgiveness isn't easily taught or even understood.

Teaching Your Tween to Forgive

Learning to forgive is about more than interpersonal relationships.

Studies show that there are a number of upsides associated with forgiveness including reduced stress, improved health, and other long lasting benefits. If your tween needs a little help understanding and learning how to forgive, the tips below might help.

Accept Their Feelings

When something unpleasant happens your child is going to experience a number of different emotions. Anger, disappointment, hurt feelings, and sadness may all be a part of the emotional mixture your tween has to manage. Let your child know that all of these feelings are normal and that he's entitled to feel all of them. You might even suggest your child blow off a little steam by journaling, engaging in physical exercise, or spending time with others.

By validating your child's feelings, you help him accept his own emotions which is a first step to making forgiveness possible. 

It's All About Time

Time can help your child overcome her negative feelings and move on.

Time has a wonderful way of smoothing things over, even when you think that could never happen. Explain to your child that he might feel differently if he gives himself enough time to think things through. It's also possible that your tween can improve his situation by talking to the friend or relative that has upset him.


Grasp the Positive

When you're hurting or upset because of someone else's actions it can be hard to let it go and move on. Teach your tween to consider any positives in a negative situation. Embracing the positive can help your child develop resilience and that can also lead to your child being able to forgive and move on. 

Consider The Other Side

Sometimes it helps to put yourself in someone else's shoes when there is a disagreement or an unpleasant event. Allowing yourself to see something from someone else's point of view might give you a little insight or understanding into their actions. While you want your child to stand up for himself when he is wronged, you also want to encourage him to show empathy for others and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Model Forgiveness in Your Home

Your child will likely learn the most about forgiveness just by observing how it is handled and offered in your own home. Show forgiveness to your child when he disappoints or angers you and offer it when you think it's appropriate.

When you discipline, be sure you do so not out of anger, but because you're trying to educate. Forgiveness can also be demonstrated in your marriage or other relationships. People will make mistakes, and that's something your tween will have to accept about friendships and family relationships

Note: Forgiveness takes practice and your child won't likely master it for many years. Don't expect a preteen to behave like an adult. Be patient with your tween and know that eventually, he'll figure out how to deal with negative emotions and events, just as you have. 

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