We’ve all had the experience of making a mistake that we needed to apologize for or being asked to forgive someone whom we felt had wronged us. Both situations are tricky circumstances that can either be handled and quickly forgotten or be mishandled and create negative feelings that linger for days. How do we guide children in giving apologies or granting forgiveness when we as adults aren’t always so deft in these situations ourselves? Below are some ideas to consider.
How to Apologize

Situations that may need an apology occur regularly between children. A sibling may accidentally bump into her younger brother. Your son may get upset with a friend who won a game your child really wanted to win. It is easy to tell a child to apologize and figure the incident is over, but apologizing between children can become routine. They may think that all they need to do is say “sorry.” This leaves children thinking that they don’t need to be responsible for their actions beyond a one-word apology. Sometimes, we pressure our child to say “I’m sorry.” Over time, children may feel resentful of this request because they don’t really feel sorry.

When managing conflict resolution for kids, helping children see the consequences of their actions is more likely to lead to learning. Consider the child’s age and the seriousness of the incident in determining how to respond. “You knocked Sophie down. She bumped her elbow. Look, she’s crying. I know you didn’t mean to hurt her, but what do you think you can do to help her feel better?” Have the child who caused the accident, whether intentional or not, ask the hurt child if he or she wants a hug, an ice pack or something else. Understanding the consequences of their actions and helping to fix the situation are two key elements in helping children develop empathy for others.
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