Yom Kippur Parenting and Forgiveness

high holidays Sep 06, 2021

By Rabbi Ezra Max

As the High Holy Days approach, theme of forgiveness is surfacing. Perhaps, it is forgiveness from those we have wronged, those who harmed us, or forgiveness of self that are forming. As these thoughts arise, some of us feel overwhelmed, and others recognize that they have lost the drive to strive or do right. Yet, in this season, we all stand together at the opportune time to get back on track.


Forgiveness is a healing process with profound ripple effects on ourselves, relationships, and the world. Without forgiveness, we are stuck, unable to move forward. The forgiveness process can be simple, but it must be consistent. Here is a 3 step process to help navigate forgiveness.


How many of us have truly left our old identity behind? Many of us are locked in our past, spending time, money, and energy to avoid the emotional pain of our regrets. We hold onto guilt and shame instead of saying, “I’m sorry for what I’ve done. That was the old me, and I’m turning a new leaf,” or “I regret I did that. I choose to move forward and leave it in the past,” or, “I’m replacing this old behavior with a healthier one.” When we linger in regret, we continue to mess up, because we create an ongoing connection with our negative past. The way out of this toxic cycle is cutting ties with our previous behavior, ensuring we don’t fall back.

The Almighty has a propensity for forgiving. If we believe we are unforgivable, we let our ego and evil inclination have control. The Nesivas Shalom teaches, the evil inclination doesn’t care about causing us to sin. His main goal is for us to give up on ourselves and think there is no way back to connecting with Hashem after sin. On Yom Kippur, we repeat the 13 attributes of mercy over and over. G-d Almighty is a merciful, loving G-d who wants us to stay connected and close. Even when we sin and create distance, he waits patiently, like a loving parent, for us to repent and return. Let’s not give in to the evil inclination and place our opinion over G-d’s. What we must do is shift from the old to our new selves. We need to acknowledge what we did was wrong and leave the past behind. When done properly, regret empowers us, serving as a motivator to avoid falling back to old habits because we no longer desire being our old selves.


Parenting is one of our most challenging yet rewarding roles. We are entrusted with raising healthy human beings. There’s lots of space for potential guilt. We can question why or how our children make their decisions, or take on the responsibility and guilt when our children mess up. It’s key to remember that Hashem entrusted us with raising our children to be functioning humans that will contribute good to the world. It’s also important to remember that no one is perfect except for G-d. We must pray for our children’s successes. We also must model healthy behaviors for them. Here are seven practical tools to model and bolster our forgiveness of self and children.

Forgiveness of Self as a Parent

  1. Model Hashem. He is the ultimate parent. If we follow His lead, we can handle all parenting challenges.
  2. Create a reminder system to check in with how you are regularly feeling. This combats living for too long in a state of guilt, shame, or grief. Reminders can be as simple as post-it-notes on your bathroom mirror or alarms in your phone, reminding you to acknowledge yourself and your commitments.
  3. Write yourself a letter or card reminding you that you are worthy of forgiveness and capable of forgiving.
  4. Look in the mirror daily, make eye contact while saying, “I forgive you. I love you.”

These tools and techniques can also be applied to forgiving our children.

Forgiveness of Our Children

5. If you hurt your child or are feeling bad about an interaction, it’s okay and advisable to say, “I’m sorry,” and ask forgiveness.

6. If you want to forgive your children, communicate, and work with them to understand the impact of negative behavior and importance of forgiveness. When you feel they understand, tell them, “I forgive you, I love you, and I will always love you.”

7. Be a role model. Children learn a lot from what they witness in their parents.


Now, in Elul, it’s especially important to make a Chesbon Hanefesh (a soulful personal accounting). Be vigilant by checking internally (regularly), who you would like forgiveness from, and who you owe forgiveness to. In the example of parent/child, this can be a weekly or monthly scheduled event; a face-to-face sit down where you both discuss if forgiveness is needed. 

Clear-up communication and awareness through writing notes, letters, or giving your child a heart-felt card. This will continue to reinforce that your child is seen, heard, and understood while strengthening their foundation for living. 

Encourage a strong relationship with Hashem, Torah, and Mitzvot.


If we model the Almighty’s attributes of compassion and forgiveness, it is easier for us to be free of negative emotions and held back by grudges. Forgiving yourself as a parent creates space to forgive your children. Forgiving your children empowers them to grow within themselves, spiritually, and in relationships.

May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a Sweet and Blessed New Year!

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