by Nabanita Dutt

Teach Children How To Forgive With The Heart-Love Pillow


Teaching children how to forgive early in life has a significant impact on how balanced and heart-brain connected they are in their adolescence and adulthood. Holding on to negative feelings, allowing them to fester inside without resolution and release, builds toxicity in the mind that hardens into habit as time goes on.

Break the habit early with the practice of forgiveness, and children will do a far better job of unpacking, understanding and discarding negative reactions without allowing them to destroy their mental equilibrium. In order to forgive truly, and understand the concept fully, the Heart-Love Pillow can be a very effective tool. As a parent, you can guide your child to deconstruct his/her anger, hurt and disappointment towards others, in progressive stages, using the Heart-Love Pillow and emotion labels as you go.

Here’s how to do it:

Step # 1:

• Assume an event has occurred in your child’s life that calls for forgiveness. The child is upset with someone, and doesn’t know how to deal with those painful feelings without acting out against the perpetrator in some negative way. Choose a time when the child seems most amenable to intervention and call for a forgiveness session. You will need the Heart-Love Pillow for this exercise, as well as 10 Post-It notepapers with the numbers 1 to 10 written on them.

Step # 2:

• Ask the child to describe how he/she is feeling about the current situation. Choose a number label that matches the intensity of the negative emotion and place it on the Heart-Love Pillow. The child will probably choose a 9 or a 10 because he/she is hurting very badly. Matching a number to the intensity of the pain and then placing it on the heart pillow helps the child to clearly understand how he/she is truly feeling inside their real heart. You probably understand the purpose of this forgiveness practice by now. It is pointless to tell a child to jump from “anger” to “forgiveness” in one big leap. The distance is too great, and impossible for any human being to perform at a command. The de-escalation has to happen in gradual stages, and watching the numbers on the pillow decrease gradually is a very effective way to make the child understand that he/she is progressively feeling better.

Step # 3:

• Discuss the nature of the fight in great detail. During this process, there are some factors that you have to keep in mind yourself, so you can share them as applicable. For example:

Siblings Will Fight: Disagreement among siblings is not just inevitable, it is also healthy to a certain extent. Children learn many lessons about getting along with others, managing personality differences, and loving and reconciling through day-to-day interactions with their siblings.

It’s Not About Being Right: The world is not a very fair place, and there are no prizes for being right. Instead, let the focus be on being at peace. The one who is able to work through bad feelings and let them go is the truest victor in any fight.

Don’t Wait For An Apology: Saying sorry can be a hard thing. The other person may be feeling sorry, but doesn’t have the courage right now to say the words. No matter. Teach your child to forgive anyway and put the matter in the past in his/her own heart. Soon enough, the other person will respond in kind – and probably become an even better friend after that!

Understanding The Other Point Of View: This is a great time to teach perspective to your child. Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes often makes the same situation look a whole lot different.

Being Kind About What You Don’t Know: A friend may have picked up the fight because things have been going horribly for him/her at home. The friend may have been feeling physically sick. Or disturbed or depressed about something. Your child does not know that. Being aware of the fact that we never really know what another person is going through puts us in a place where forgiveness is a whole lot easier to find.

Grudges Only Hurt The Person Who Holds Them: Forgiveness isn’t just about being good to others. It is about being good to yourself. Holding a grudge makes the holder feel terrible, and forgiveness is often a self-help pill that cures the bad feeling and sets the person free to be happy and whole again.

Step # 4:

• Notice milestones during this conversation when emotions seem to be dialing down. Stop to ask the child how he/she is feeling at these times, and encourage the choosing of a matching number. Remove the earlier Post-it notepaper from the Heart-Love Pillow and replace with the new one. Now the child has visual proof that his/her level of anger is actually going down.

Step # 5:

• When the conversation is over, don’t hold out for the child to choose No. 1 as the final emotional number. Forgiveness cannot be forced. Accept whatever the final number is, and know that some really good work has been done here. As more events occur that require forgiveness, and you work this same process with your child, the healing progression of emotions will become easier for him/her to embrace. It’s a big task. Be thankful, that it is in progress!