How to teach your kids forgiveness?

Forgiveness can be a hard thing for adults, let alone kids. Which is even more reason why it is such an important life skill. Bad things are going to happen to us and our children. People will wrong us along this journey of life and holding grudges just weighs us down. So, how do we teach our kids to forgive? 

First things first—we need to be the example. It is hard sometimes to think about the fact that our kids are always looking to us for the answers. They use the adults in their life to determine how they should respond to things happening around them. As a parent, we are not perfect. Yes, I know that is hard to hear, but it’s true. We are human and humans are not perfect. So, when we inevitably mess up in front of our kids—hone up to it. Our kids need to see us admit to wrongdoing, they need to see us forgive ourselves and those around us. If your kids make a mistake, tell them “you forgive them.” Make it clear that you are putting the past behind you and moving forward with a clean slate. This will teach your kids to do the same. 

Read your children books, tell them stories that involve forgiveness. This is a great way to start building up this concept to young children who often relate more to fictional characters than the real people in their lives. Talk about the stories when you are done reading them, make sure your child understands the point and why forgiveness is important. 

Talk to your children about generosity, worth, kindness, respect, and love. These concepts go hand-in-hand with forgiveness. As your child starts to empathize with others and see the beauty and strengths of other people, forgiveness becomes easier. When we forgive we are loving others who likely didn’t show us the same love when they wronged us. We are showing respect to those who are not respecting us back. We are being the bigger person, at least in the moment. 

It is important to explain to children that forgiveness doesn’t mean an automatic reconciliation. It doesn’t mean that the action simply disappears. But it does mean that we can move forward. Make it clear to your child that if they are repeatedly wronged by the same person, it is ok to separate. They can forgive, by not holding a grudge, but that doesn’t mean they have to be submissive. They don’t have to put themselves in toxic situations. They can stand up for themselves. They should. They can establish boundaries.

Just like sharing, the concept of forgiveness takes time. It takes repeated effort. The best thing you can do as a parent is to forgive your kids, forgive yourself, and talk to your kids about these things. Be there and provide your kids with a safe place to come and share if they don’t know how to proceed. 

How have you taught forgiveness? 

How to combat parental anxiety

Of course, you are going to worry if you are a parent. You are, after all, wearing your heart outside your body. Your kids are your world and it terrifies you that something could happen to them. But, what if you are one of those parents who is constantly terrified to the point where it is hard to function in daily life?

Are you faced with overwhelming anxiety about your kids playing outside because they might get hurt, they might get abducted, or hit by a car? These are all valid worries but when they are all consuming they can get in the way of letting your kid be a kid. They can make it hard for you to sleep and function as a parent. And, that anxiety can rub off on your kids. So — what do you do? How can you combat parental anxiety?

Tips to ease parental worry

1.) Do your research. Yes, many times as parents we are told to stay away from the internet because it always points the worse, and yes that can be true. But, the internet can also be a resource. Of the 800,000 missing children, only 115 of them were taken by strangers (Psychology Today). What really are the risks? How likely is it that your child is going to be abducted from the front yard? How bad would it be if he/she/they broke their arm climbing a tree? Is it really the end of the world if they miss a night of sleep? Confront your fears as realistically as possible. 

2.) Teach your kids. If you talk to your kids and teach them the things they should be careful of then you have less to worry about. Teach them to not talk to strangers. Teach them to wait at the corner and look both ways before crossing the road. Teach them to stay on the sidewalk. Teach them to stay close to you, to be aware of their surroundings, to not give up personal information unless they know they have found someone safe (like a police officer or a doctor). Talk to them about their worries, their concerns. 

3.)Practice mindfulness and meditation when you are anxious. Take a moment with your child to listen to the sounds around you, count as you breathe in and out, and take in the small moments. Appreciate all the energy and the innocence and the beauty your kids bring to your life. 

4.) Take care to make things as safe as possible. If you have a pool, make sure it has a fence and make sure your kids know the pool rules. Make sure your kids know your phone number, secret words (in case someone else has to pick them up from school), address, etc. 

5.) Create a list. What are the pros and cons of parenting your child over-protectively? What do you want for them? What do you want to avoid? When you take some time to really think about it, it will help to put things into perspective. 

6.) Get help. If you can’t seem to work through your fears and anxieties, seek help from a licensed mental health professional. They can help teach healthy coping techniques and provide suggestions on how to move through anxiety rather than having it cause a roadblock. 

It is ok to worry. It is ok to be overprotective. But you don’t want it to interfere with yours or your child’s day-to-day life. It is impossible, sadly enough, to put your kids into a bubble and keep them safe all the time. They have to learn some of these things on their own and you can help to be their guide. 

Ask Mabel: How to motivate yourself to change (even when you are scared)?

Dear Mabel: My goal has always been to go to grad school but now that it is time to study for the GRE I can’t get myself motivated. Grad school is a huge time and money investment and I am afraid. What if I don’t succeed after graduation? What if I end up right back where I am now? Then what was the point? What if I end up in a dead-end job living with my parents? I am getting really discouraged. How can I get myself motivated?

Signed, Frank from Minnesota 

Mabel: Hi Frank, this sounds like a classic case of overthinking. Your brain is constantly evaluating the risk of taking this leap, so of course, it sounds like a bad idea. You are convincing yourself every day based on your fears. The truth is, yes there are risks. And, yes the worst case scenario is you will end up back at square one. But, what happens if you don’t take the chance? I like to look at things systematically. If you don’t take the GRE, if you don’t take the leap and try for grad school, then you have a 100 percent chance of being at square one. At least by taking this leap, you are giving yourself a fighting chance. Turn your thinking around. Instead of focusing on what can go wrong if you do go to grad school, think about what can happen if you don’t. What is the risk of not going? 

No change happens without taking a chance on ourselves. You can choose to stay stagnant, right where you are currently, based on fears. Or, you can choose to fight for a change. You can give yourself opportunities, you can open doors for your future, but you have to try. So often we let fears get in the way. Your motivation is inside you, you just have to change your perspective on the situation as a whole. If you fail and you end up back at square one, at least you will know you tried. And, who knows maybe the experience will lead to other open doors. But, first, you have to try. 

Ask Mabel: How can I stop myself from cheating?

Dear Mabel: Help! I am married and I feel like I am slowly falling for a guy at work. It started with happy hour, then instant messaging, and lately we have had a few conversations about maybe meeting up outside of the office. I love my husband, I really do. But I have to admit that I am enjoying flirting. It’s fun. How can I stop myself from cheating? I don’t want to but I am feeling the temptation.

Signed, Annie from Philadelphia 

Mabel: Hi Annie, we are all human and it’s not uncommon to develop feelings towards another individual even when we are married. Obviously, there are some underlying issues that need to be addressed such as your internal conflict and the connection between you and your husband. You need to examine why you are attracted to this other person and what struggles might be occurring in your marriage that are making you feel like you need to look elsewhere?

However, kudos to you for wanting to do the right thing and avoid betraying your partner. It’s not easy to fight these feelings and urges, but it can be done. It’s important to remind yourself why you want to protect your relationship with your husband. Why is your marriage important to you? What do you love about your husband?

As difficult as it may be, it all shall pass. Plants need water, sunlight, and nutrients to grow. Relationships are similar. They need a few key components to germinate: time, proximity, and chemistry. Without one of those, a relationship can not survive for long. So what do I mean by those components? Well, time is the amount of time you are in contact with the other person, whether in-person, phone, or online chatting. Proximity is the physical distance between two people (this is why long distance relationships are hard). And, chemistry is liking each other, attraction, and common interests. Since you are flirting with this person, there is obvious chemistry. In order to avoid acting on that chemistry, you need to eliminate the other two components—time and proximity. I don’t expect you to quit your job, but you do need to separate yourself from this other person. You need to end the instant messaging, avoid happy hours where he is present, and decrease any time spent with this person in a non-professional setting. You can get through this if you take the right steps. Staying focused on your marriage and working to get through whatever struggles may be causing you to stray can help to keep your mind and heart in the right place. 

The Power of Solitude

Many of us are afraid to be alone. I am talking really alone, no cell phone, no wifi, nothing but you and your brain. But, choosing solitude every once in a while can have great benefits for your mind and your body. 

When we are constantly connected to the outside world we tend to lose touch with ourselves. We feel the need to compete with those around us, we get sucked into other peoples problems/struggles, and we can begin to feel overwhelmed in the day-to-day. We tend to ignore our own needs and desires because “there isn’t enough time.” We get bogged down with decision-fatigue and our judgment gets clouded. 

Rest your brain

Making the choice to spend time with yourself can give your brain time to rest. It can free you from decision-fatigue and enable you to make better choices for your life. It can help you to rediscover your sense of self, allow you time to listen to YOU and reflect on your goals and your needs. If that time is spent in nature, which often is the best place to find solitude, it can provide a renewed harmony with the natural world. Solitude allows you to escape sensory overload, stimulate creativity and awaken your spirituality. The list goes on and on. 

Now I hear you, “I don’t have time for that.” Well, taking these moments for yourself can also make you more productive, giving you more time to do the things you want to do. The amount of time you choose to be in solitude doesn’t have to be long. It could be in the form of daily meditation. It could be a couple hour hike or a run/bike ride/walk (without music). It could be a spa day by yourself. It could be a night at a hotel by yourself away from the chaos of your home. 

The main thing is you need to really be in solitude, free of distraction. That means no phone, no internet, no playlist. It is time for you to connect with you and that is hard to do if you are distracted. It is about practicing mindfulness. Lean into your sadness, embrace your insecurities, breathe, and reconnect with yourself again. Take a break from the real world for a moment. Relax. Breathe. And feel confident that you can re-enter your life with a clear head. 

Ask Mabel: My husband and I fight about folding clothes

Concerned Client: My husband wants me to fold his clothes but not in my way, he wants me to fold them his way. I am not big on folding clothes in any special way. I do it the way I was taught which he thinks is “too messy,” or “incorrect.” That is what I know. It doesn’t bother me that my clothes are folded this way and my kids could care less. I could learn the way he wants me to fold, but it seems pointless to me. He is losing his patience and I am growing frustrated. 

He could just fold his own clothes himself but it takes him a week to get to the basket and by then it is overflowing with clean, unfolded, wrinkled clothes. I at least want to get them into the dresser, out of the way. It makes no sense to me why he is ok staring at a basket of unfolded clothes for a week but not ok with me folding and putting away his clothes. He says he doesn’t care if it doesn’t make sense. He just wants me to fold the clothes his way. He says it is “my job” to take care of the laundry and I should do it “his way.” What the hell? He works full time and expects me to all the stuff around the house, the cooking, the cleaning, and all the laundry to his standards. I am ok doing it my way, but why does it have to be his way? 

Mabel: Before I make the assumption that this is a misogynist behavior, I need to get a bigger picture. What is the implicit or explicit agreement that you currently have with your husband in terms of division of labor (i.e. you take care of all the stuff in the home, while he handles the stuff outside of the home)? Do you expect him to adhere to certain standards when it comes to the yard work? Or taking care of vehicles? Why he expects you to fold the clothes his way may be his way of executing what he thought might be an agreement. Have you ever talked about an agreement of who does what and how? Sometimes couples assume an agreement and really they need to discuss it with each other.

Social media may be affecting your self-esteem

It is commonplace these days to pick up your phone at any moment of downtime and peruse social media platforms. Research shows as many as 77 percent of us, according to Statista, have at least one social media account. 

Maybe you frequently post pictures of your kids or your dog or read about the happenings of old friends or colleagues. Whatever your reason for turning to social media, its use could be impacting your overall mental health. 

It might seem harmless, a way to combat brief moments of boredom in our constantly moving world. How could seeing what your friends or even strangers (if you are part of a group) are up to impact your mental health? It’s because whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you are comparing yourself to others. You are thinking “wow she looks great,” “they have such a beautiful family,” “I wish I was that successful,” the list goes on and on and on. 

The Best of the Best

Let’s get real here — the majority of pictures and posts we are seeing on social media are the best of the best. They are painting these perfect pictures of our families, our careers, our travels, and our friendship circles. 

A variety of studies, according to Healthline, show a link between social media use and decreased overall self-esteem and increased anxiety and depression (especially in our children). People have reported feeling more lonely after visiting a social media platform. It is kind of odd when you think about it — the very thing that is supposed to bring us closer together may actually be making us feel more alone. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are benefits to social media— increased awareness of certain issues, sharing of news, communities of support, and an ease to connect with those far away from us. But, it is also important that we recognize the negative impacts these types of behaviors are having on our health. 

Take care to recognize the amount of time you are spending on these websites and how you feel when you get off of them. Then, work on limiting yourself so that you don’t continue to harm yourself mentally and emotionally. Choosing certain times of the day or week to unplug is important. 

How many times a day do you turn to social media? How does it make it you feel?

Ask Mabel: Co-parents disagree on electronic use

Concerned Client: My husband and I have a blended family. I have three kids and he has two. My children are with us most of the time, while his share time between our home and their mom’s. Lately, my husband has been trying to manage the amount of screen time my kids get when they get home from school. He doesn’t believe they should have any. Instead, he would rather see them do their homework or play outside. He thinks any tablet time is setting them up for bad habits as adults. His kids usually go to their mom’s house after school and they have as much screen time as they like, and he can’t do anything about it. 

I am frustrated because I have always let my kids have an hour when they get home to relax and unwind with their tablets. They play games, watch shows, whatever their heart desires. I think it is important that they are allowed this freedom. I feel like my husband is micromanaging my kids because he doesn’t have a say in how his kids spend their time after school. I don’t like it. I don’t think he has a right to step in on this issue. I have always been on board with co-parenting to a point but I feel like my husband is lecturing me on something that I don’t think is a big deal because he can’t say these things to his ex-wife. 

What do you think? Am I overreacting?

Mabel: It is hard for kids in these situations. Kids are kids. It doesn’t matter what the adult issues are, his kids might feel like second-class citizens because they see your kids getting screen time and they are not allowed. It is important that you and your spouse try to find a middle ground. Put aside your adult issues and find a way to unify the situation so that all the children have the same rules. 

If there is inequality in the household, his kids may not respond to your parenting. They will have the conscious or unconscious impression that you always side with your kids, and your kids are treated better than they are. Screen time might not seem like a big deal, but I am sure to the kids it is a huge issue. 

friends

How does vulnerability strengthen friendships

Vulnerability is a tough thing. It means letting down barriers, opening your heart, and showing people who you really are. It is so easy nowadays to hide behind an electronic device. When we don’t show our vulnerability our friendships don’t go as deep. They are more surface-based friendships. 

When you allow people to see you when you are up and when you are down and you open up to them honestly about what is going on in your life, what you think about, your concerns, your fears then you begin to create a bond. Being vulnerable strengthens relationships. It is not fake or superficial. It is open, honest, and raw. 

Breaking Down Walls

When you start to let down barriers, then those around you also feel comfortable to knock down their walls. Deep down inside we all want someone to share our ups and downs with. We all want someone that we can “tell anything” too. This means being vulnerable. And, it can be scary.

When you are vulnerable it is easier for you to get hurt. When you show your true self it is much easier to feel the pain or the hurt if someone doesn’t agree with your life choices. But allowing yourself to form real bonds with those around you will also allow you to feel supported, loved, respected in your life. It will allow you to form trusting, deep relationships with those around you. You can create your tribe but you first have to stop hiding. 

It is easy to hold back and keep others at a distance because of fear of being judged but that makes it hard to form real relationships with others. You need to get intimate with those around you, share those deep dark fears, regrets, and insecurities with the people in your life who can lift you up. These bonds will contribute to your overall happiness. They can last a lifetime if you let them.  

Setting boundaries with repeat offenders

The first time someone does something that offends me, I let it go. I try to educate the person on why they offended me and ask them kindly to please refrain from doing it again. Then I brush it off. 

The second time someone offends me, I give them the benefit of the doubt. I think “well maybe it was a misunderstanding.” I talk to them and keep open lines of communication. I move on. 

The third time that someone offends me, that’s it. I have been kind and open-minded up to this point. I have educated this person. They know exactly how I feel and realize what they are doing is going to be hurtful to me. Yet they do it anyway. This person is being blatantly disrespectful to my wishes. They obviously don’t care enough about my feelings to change their ways. 

Set Boundaries

It is important for your own wellbeing to set boundaries with repeat offenders. People that are constantly disrespecting your wishes, overstepping your boundaries, offending you in some way or another, are not worth your time. These people are toxic to your mental health. It is ok to let these people go from your life. You don’t have to be around or interact with people who don’t care enough to respect your wishes. 

Boundaries are crucial to your happiness, your personal comfort, and your overall health. Feeling hurt or stressed because people are consistently offending you is damaging your mental wellbeing and therefore also harmful to your physical health. You have the right to stand up for yourself, to fight for your happiness. You need to take care of you and show these repeat offenders that you won’t stand for their behavior toward you. Then let it go.