A Teachable Moment: The New Year is a Good Time to Forgive
By Dr. Susan Bartell
It can be challenging to follow through on New Year’s resolutions… Become neater? The papers pile up! Go on a diet? One week and it’s over! Most of the time you feel like you failed because you didn’t stick to the resolution.Well, guess what, I have a two-part solution to a successful resolution!
Part One: Love yourself!
Rather than promising yourself that you will achieve all your (sometimes impossible) goals, instead resolve to forgive yourself for not always achieving them. This also includes teaching your child to forgive and love herself, because it will help her develop high self-esteem, a good body image and the ability to think optimistically. There are three steps to this process:
1. Make a list of everything you appreciate and value about yourself (do this with your child too—helping him as necessary). Make the lists as long and detailed as possible.
2. Make a list of everything you have achieved in the last year in every area of your life: parenting, other relationships, work, volunteering, feelings—and any other important arena in your life. Your child’s list should include achievements in areas such as school, social life, activities, family, emotions and any other you and she consider important.
3. Resolve to continue focusing on these positive achievements and feel proud of yourself. You will find that the more you focus on the areas you like about yourself, the easier it will be to overcome obstacles and challenges. Help your child to do the same, now and for the rest of the year.
Part Two: Love others!
Teach yourself and your child to become forgiving of other people. This can sometimes be a challenge, but it is an important part of nurturing successful relationships for both adults and kids. There are three steps that will help you and your child begin to see other people in a positive light—despite their flaws.
1. When you feel frustrated, angry or disappointed with someone, immediately look for a reason they may be behaving this way. In most cases, when people disappoint others it is because of a stress or disappointment in their own life. When you discover this, you will be able to turn your frustration into empathy. Teach your child to do the same. For example, if he feels let down by a friend, help him see that perhaps it is because the other child is sad about something else, or hasn’t yet learned how to be a good friend.
2. Rather than harboring anger, talk to the person with whom you are upset. Use ‘I’ words, rather than the more accusatory, ‘You’. For example, rather than saying, “You disappointed me because you weren’t there for me”, you might say: ‘I feel upset because I feel you weren’t there for me during this stressful time—I’m wondering if you realize this?”. For the best result, practice what you will say beforehand. Help your child do this too by rehearsing the conversation with you before she approaches the other person.
3. Let it go! Once you understand the other person’s behavior or voice your feelings about it, you need to move forward without anger and with forgiveness. Of course, there may be times when you (or your child) choose to let go of the relationship, but do so graciously, without malice or bitterness. Becoming a forgiving person will feel good and is also an important skill to help your child.
More SMW Parenting Advice from Dr. Susan Bartell