"I always find it more difficult to say the things I mean than the things I don't."
--W. Somerset Maugham
"I'm sorry." Why are those words so hard to say even when you really are sorry? There are some times when I literally can not force them out of my mouth and even when I do, I just sound mean. I need some time to compose myself first.
Saying you are sorry is a pretty big topic in parenting, in etiquette, and in empathy. I'm actually sort of surprised I hadn't thought about it sooner. The first thing that came to mind about kids and apologies is that you really should not force them. It seems terribly rude for a child to do something wrong and not be apologetic, but it's a teachable moment. As a parent, what I ultimately want is for my kids to genuinely feel empathy with the person they have wronged. I want them to put themselves in the others shoes and think about how they would feel. But these are children we are talking about and sometimes they don't feel sorry, at least not at first. Just like me, they may need some time to work through their own emotions before they are ready to admit to making a mistake.
I have found myself apologizing for my kids when they have failed to do so. It's pretty easy to be sincere when I feel embarrassed or know exactly how the other person feels. Later I speak with my kids about what happened and, in general, they come up with an apology on their own. I'm not always sure they follow through with it, but I hope they do. I try to model this by making sure I apologize later for my mistakes.
Saying you are sorry should really be done in person, but if that's not possible proper etiquette is to send a handwritten note. Depending on the offense, an apology and a note may be appropriate.