Creative Child

Three Important Lessons for Kids from Martin Luther King, Jr

by Rebecca Eanes

Martin Luther King, Jr was a civil rights leader during the 1950s and 1960s. He led non-violent protests to fight for the rights of all human beings, including African Americans. He is considered one of the great orators of modern times. His speeches are still inspiring people today. He gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 at the “March on Washington,” a march organized to show the importance of civil rights legislation. The march was a success and the Civil Rights Act was passed a year later in 1964. Martin Luther King, Jr lost his life on April 4, 1968 after being shot while standing on the balcony of his hotel. However, the lessons he taught us live on. Here are three lessons he taught us that we can pass on to our children.

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Forgiveness is Healing

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” - MLK Jr.

Forgiveness is an emotional process of letting go of hurt, anger, and resentment. So often, we teach children to merely give or accept an apology, and that’s as far as we teach “forgiveness,” but it goes much deeper than a simple apology. In fact, forgiveness can occur without an apology, and that’s also an important lesson for children to learn. They are in control of letting go of their pain regardless of what the offending party does. It may seem impossible to teach true forgiveness to a still developing mind, but research shows that children who are taught forgiveness skills have better relationships, improve their academic performance, and are happier overall. But how can we teach children to forgive? 

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Here are 5 simple steps for forgiveness by child development expert Maureen Healy.

  1. Acknowledge what happened. Don’t brush it under a rug or ignore it where it can fester and grow. Instead, teach your child to acknowledge what occurred and face it.
  2. Experience your feelings. Sitting with unpleasant feelings is, well, unpleasant. But feeling them is an important part of letting them go. Help your child to name the emotions they are feeling and then allow them the space to cry or vent to you if needed.
  3. Communicate that you want to forgive. Now it’s time to let those emotions wash away and to declare your intention to forgive. Stating our intentions is a powerful mental exercise.
  4. Forgive. Let go of the pain, resentment, or anger. Do this exercise with your child: Ask them to imagine the anger or hurt going out of their body with each exhale and imagine love and forgiveness and peace coming in with each inhale. Do this for about 5 breaths or until your child feels the process is complete.
  5. Release. The anger and hurt is now gone. Let it go and move on. 
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