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How to deal with guilt as a parent.

Everyday, as parents we need to make a call about what is good for our kids.  We make life changing decisions and because we are not perfect and are not equipped with crystal balls we can make some wrong decisions.  If we are not careful we can often focus on what we did wrong and that can take our focus away from what we want to do right!

I am talking about one of the most frequent feelings that we can experience as parents...


This article is going to explore our feelings of guilt and suggest some ways in which we can be released from feeling guilty so that we can have every chance of providing the best support for our children.

First up, let us explore what guilt is...

I did a quick search for a definition and I got this:

"A feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offence , crime, wrong etc, whether real or imagined."

Thanks to!

So basically, something happens which we have been involved with, it turns out wrong and we feel responsible for it.

Of course there are times when we have done things as parents which were the results of poor decision making, over reactions, and many activities that affect our kids, and it is healthy to be self aware enough for us to realise what we have done and do something about it.  So sometimes a pang of guilt can empower us to action to make something right between us and our kids.

This blog post is focused on that prolonged feeling of guilt, that has stayed with us.  The feeling and thoughts that we allow,  to berate ourselves.  They stay in our minds and affect our moods and sometimes results in us doing things that are an over compensation for whatever happened.  Often that 'over-compensation' results in us doing things for our kids that ultimately make us feel better rather than necessarily giving our kids what they need.

A good example of this is a parent I know of who chose to be absent from his child for many many years.  He is now trying to make amends by trying to pay for lots of things for his now teenage child. The problem is that the child doesn't want a source of gifts or income from their parent, the child needs to feel loved, respected, and listened to.  It is almost as if the parent's feeling of guilt is preventing them from seeing the real needs of their child.  They are trying to signal a desire to be back in the life of their child again, but the language that they are using is being lost with the child.  Whilst the parent clearly has a responsibility for being absent in the past, it is quite possible that their sense of guilt is actually blinding them in how they are trying to meet the needs of their child in the present.

So here are some suggestions to you if you are feeling guilty about something that you have done that has affected your child adversely.

1) Shit happens!  Acknowledge what you have done and move on!

OK, so you have done something or made a decision that has not worked out well for your child.  No one said that when you became a parent, you were going to be a perfect parent and if you set yourself that expectation then frankly you are deluded.  Being a parent is a steep learning curve.  Your interaction with your children will press all sorts of emotional buttons many of which will be rooted in your experiences of being parented as a child and not surprisingly, you will make bad calls and judgements.
So when we are feeling guilty about something we have done, simply acknowledge what you have done, explain to your child that you have made a mistake and that you are keen to improve on that for the future.  Once done, take the learning from the experience, but don't dwell on it, don't constantly remind yourself that you cocked up.  That won't help you and your feelings of guilt will only hold you back.

2) Take responsibility and do what is needed, not what might make you feel better.

So yes, we make mistakes.  Those mistakes may well require us to do something about them, but the action that we take must be what is needed.  So often we can feel guilty and not give ourselves a chance to think about what the next step should be to appropriately rectify what we have done.  Often in relationships with our children we can think that the need for action is about making our child happy (not always the right call) , feeling accepted by our child (they can really tug at our heart strings especially when they are unhappy and not wanting to talk to us) or needing to be demonstrative about how much we love them.  Sometimes because of those feelings we don't give ourselves the time to take a bird's eye view of what is really happening for our child and in our relationship with our child.  Our children have needs and by putting aside our negative self beliefs and guilt, maybe we can allow ourselves the clarity of mind to put into place actions that will give our children what they need.

3) Don't allow guilt to define you and pull you into self pity.

'I'm not a great parent!' , 'I feel so hopeless!', 'I can't believe that I made that decision and now look what's happened!'.  Sound familiar?  Sometimes feeling guilty can feel a little bit like a support blanket.  Often we hold onto guilt because for some reason we don't do something about it.  It can sometimes define us.  This can be a downward spiral into poor mental health e.g depression.
You have all the resources you need to be that great parent that you want to be.  If you know that you need to take action then take it, make a difference!  Don't sit in your guilt knowing what you should have done and allow yourself to think that because you feel guilty you are suffering enough and don't need to do anything about it.  We need to make mistakes because they help us to learn more about ourselves, so go ahead and make some more, put the guilt behind you and learn from your experiences.  This is an essential part of living.

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