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SEL Series: Sorry


When you ask a young person to apologize, they often scowl at you with an attitude. They may glare at you and roughly say,” Why should I apologize, I didn’t do anything wrong”. We all know that owning our mistakes is not only a challenge for children but for adults as well. Apprehension to apologizing relates to our fear of permanently ruining our public self-image.

Surprisingly, avoiding owning our slip-ups can backfire on us. We all make mistakes, but it is crucial to teach children how to respond, restore and mend fences.

Frequently, children become defensive to counteract their feels of embarrassment. 1:  they are trying to avoid the feeling of shame.  In addition, to feeling shame, children often duck taking responsibility.  2: they are charged with a sense of guilt. Children and adults do not want the result of their actions to be met with “the cold shoulder” from our friends or loved ones.

I believe talking with children and helping them understand the importance of apologizing is very vital. Helping them understand that we all make mistakes, giving them the language and tools that will be helpful to assisting them to embrace the steps in the apology process.

Let’s look a sample child-friendly apology letter:

“Kaela I am sorry for calling you a meanie I know that it was wrong. I did probably made you feel sad and not wanted as a part of our group. I will think before I say not nice things again. Next time I will try my best not to be mean again.”

“Will you accept my apology?”

Below are questions that should be included in the apology letter. It will help the students think about how their actions affected someone else.

The person’s name?

What did you do that hurt their feelings?

How do you think they were feeling?

How else might they have been feeling?

What is something you can do differently next time?

Elements of a genuine apology:

1. Be Sincere
2. Take responsibility for your actions
3. Don’t blame the other person
4. Allow them to share their feelings
5. Honestly try to change your behaviors

I’ve taught lessons on how to make an apology several times to little ones, but I wonder if they were effective. I noticed that I had to get to the bare bones of why apologizing is essential. I told them saying sorry and meaning it is the fastest way of restoring friendships.  Also, helping kids change a lousy choice into a learnable moment builds character and empathy.


Tiana Brown is the Assistant Director of the Norwalk Housing Authority Learning Centers


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Giselle Bonaparte

    This is such an awesome article. As an adult it is hard for me to own up to when I’m wrong at times. This definitely is a tool I can use to encourage my students as well as myself. I really enjoyed and am inspired by this article

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