When we introduce children to the sacrament of reconciliation, we must keep in mind that reconciliation means more than the forgiveness of sins. Reconciliation is a life-style, a mission, a ministry and a process in which all Christians - young and old - are continually involved. Reconciliation means reunion with God and with one another through, with and in Christ. Reconciliation is marked not by sorrow but by hope and confidence.
In preparing your child for this sacrament you need to be more than ever present and attentive to your child. As parents we share our child’s difficulties, joys, hopes, successes and failures. Taking advantage of times to be a good listener is important now. Take care to deepen family relationships, especially experiences of forgiveness that occur. At different times make the religious significance of these experiences clear.
Talk to your child about how your family cares for one another when facing problems. Ask:
- Do we ever argue at home? Do we always know why we argue?
- Is it hard to care for one another, to be responsible to one another?
- How do you feel when someone hurts you? cares for you?
As a family, decide on a way that will show you care for one another. Remind your child that Jesus tells us that God is always forgiving and asks us to be forgiving in return. Pray the "Our Father" with your child. Ask what words in this prayer speak to us of reconciliation. Help your child to focus on one personal instance for which they wish to ask God's forgiveness. Try to help your child to be aware of an area where they need God's help and forgiveness. Tell your child about your own experiences of forgiving and being forgiven
When your child comes to you for forgiveness take them seriously. Take time to talk, listen and show them that your love has not changed, reminding them of the loving presence of God who forgives, just as you do. This is a good time to help your child to become aware of their wrong-doing, accepting their difficulties and thus accepting themselves. Draw attention to the future, show your child you are confident that they can do better and that you will be there to help. Take time to enjoy the peace of reconciling by doing something together or sharing something.
When it is your child’s time to forgive someone help them to do so wholeheartedly. Help your child to discover ways to bring about reconciliation through words or action. Give your child a chance to experience the pure joy that comes to us when we try to forgive one another as God forgives us.