Be a role model
You are your tween's most influential role model, even when you botch up the perfect parent routine. "The parent-child relationship is the first example of how relationships work. They are also the first relationship that provides practice for kids before they develop other relationships," explains Tamara Hill, Child Therapist, PsychCentral/Caregivers. "When parents engage in behaviors that may disappoint their children or hurt their feelings, it is important to model taking responsibility by apologizing."
Apologize to your kids quickly
Once you've realized you overreacted or could have handled things differently, make it a habit to say sorry right away. "When something has happened and a parent knows they were wrong and should apologize to the child, it's important that this is done as soon as possible," advises Judi Cinéas, LCSW, Ph.D. "When the incident occurs, the child is processing and forming views of things right away. When the parent interjects with an apology, they give that child one more positive thing to consider."
While apologizing quickly is important, it's even more important not to deliver artificial remorse just to get it over with. "Saying you're sorry only works when it's authentic," shares Don MacMannis, Ph.D. Clinical Director, Family Therapy Institute, www.HowsYourFamily.com. "Don't even go there until the emotional brain settles down. Wait until you can be sincere, and then truly try to understand [your tween's] perspective."
Keep it short
Regardless of how mature your tween may be, getting to the point is the most effective way to say sorry to your kids, so avoid over-explaining. "More important than the words themselves it is important that your apology is short and genuine," offers Sherianna Boyle, www.poweredbymenow.com. "When we over explain or defend our actions it can invite conflict and mistrust into the relationship." Admit to your kiddo you were wrong, acknowledge your child's feelings and say you're sorry for it.
The most important point to emphasize when learning how to say sorry to your kids is to learn how move past your mistake instead of dwelling on it. "Once you've done that, stop beating yourself up for it and move on," says Carl Grody, LISW, MSW, Grody Family Counseling. "Remember, you don't want to teach the kids that they have to carry a mistake forever." And, Boyle agrees. "It is equally important for parents to accept and forgive themselves when they make mistakes." No parent is perfect, and the sooner your tween understands this reality that happier you both will be.
Once you know how^ Once you know how to apologize to your kids, don't be afraid to do it. "A parent never loses ground as an authority figure when they apologize to their kids," assures Dr. Fran Walfish, child and family psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent. "On the contrary, a parent earns their child's respect and sets the model for accountability. Accountability is required in building your child's character. When a parent apologizes to their [tween], they set the bar for how to behave when a misstep occurs. We all make mistakes. Our goal is to acknowledge, validate, and accept ourselves — flaws and all!"