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Teen Talk, December 6, 2012: Teens & Forgiveness

Teen Talk
Posted at 10:54 AM, Dec 06, 2012
Question:
 
The youngest of my three children continues to hold grudges after events that disappoint him.  How do I teach a young sixteen year old male a lesson in forgiveness?  My feeling is that it will help him to navigate the world in a much more positive way. 
 
Answer:
 
Forgiveness is a tough concept even for adults.  It is important to teach kids that when you practic3e forgiveness you liberate yourself so often of so many negative emotions, when you’re able to forgive not only others but yourself as well.  From a health standpoint, to hold on to guilt, resentment, anger, and negative feelings, it tends to drain energy and impact negatively in our interpersonal relationships.  So once again, where do we start? 
 
1.       The first place to start, as we always do, is with good communication.  To talk about these issues and to put language on these experiences as you witness them helps a young person recognize these patterns. Recognition leads to different decision making.
 
2.      Role model forgiveness behavior.   Forgive your teen quickly when they make big mistakes.  It does not mean that you don’t deliver consequences but it means that you won’t historically bring up all of the past infractions.  A rule of thumb, deal with the issue and then let it go.  This encourages your teen to address the issue and then let it go.
 
3.      Parents, you too have to admit when you are wrong.  Asking your teen to forgive you when you make critical mistakes is crucial.  Often we are very guilty of this as adults on a regular basis.
 
4.      Help your teens in developing forgiveness.  This means to understand that in a lot of situations, you have to acknowledge that an experience does indeed hurt you.  However the real pain is involved when someone you love or trusted does something to wound you.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the bad behavior didn’t exist; rather it means you let it go as part of the past.  You don’t want to carry it around over and over as apparently your son has done. 
 
5.      Failure to forgive limits the scope of friendship.  If we continue to hold grudges and people recognize this in us it could conceivably hamper the possibility of building new relationships. 
 
6.      When you are perceived as a person who is likely to forgive you are also likely to be able to retrieve friendships.  A lot of times when we practice holding grudges, we are never able to go back to friendships, so problem solving is a key to enhancing independent living skills.
 
7.      Repeatedly not forgiving also runs the risk of holding on to anger and resentment and a sense of betrayal and can also trigger depressive episodes.  A vindictive, angry mind set creates bitterness, indeed does increase stress levels, and can diminish overall health.  Forgiveness and developing this skill can also be a challenge because when you forgive, you may feel that you condone a particular behavior.  This is not your true forgiveness, it simply means that you have reconciled with the person about his choices. 
 
8.      It is important to remember that forgiveness and developing this skill of forgiveness also develops the skill of empathy and compassion.  People can often be cruel and demonstrate no humility whatsoever.  But in this case, we build our own skills of compassion.
 
9.      Taking the high road of forgiveness empowers us.  We lose that sense of being intimidated by a situation because indeed we have addressed the issue. 
 
10.  Again, these are important  foundation steps as we continue to lay the groundwork for future adult decision making.

Information provided by Jane Marks & Associates