5 Helpful Ways to Shake Feelings of Parent Guilt
Updated: Sep 12
As a parent, there are a variety of reasons why you might feel guilty. Maybe you think you work too much and aren’t around for your child. Perhaps you’re worried about not feeding your children the healthiest of meals, or giving them too much screen time.
The current pandemic is packing on the guilt in new ways, as work and life collide at home daily. My 4 year old recently told me "All you and daddy do are work, work, work." Try explaining to a 4 year old that his parents work to pay bills, pay a mortgage and make sure they have all they could want and need. It's a heavy conversation that floats right over their heads.
When it comes down to it, you could overthink dozens of things and end up feeling guilty over it.
The bottom line? If you’re doing the best you can as a parent, no one can ask more of you. That isn’t always an easy reality to accept, especially if you’re already profoundly ingrained with guilt.
What can you do to overcome those feelings of guilt and accept your parenting tactics as something positive?
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
One of the best ways to shake the feeling of guilt is to acknowledge it. Don’t try to ignore it or pretend it’s something else. By recognizing that you feel guilty about certain things within your parenting style, you can work on addressing that guilt and managing it in more productive ways.
2. Know Your Triggers
It would help if you didn’t have to avoid altogether the things that might be causing you parental guilt. But, it is a good idea to understand specific triggers. Do you have to work late some nights, so you miss tucking your child into bed? That could be a trigger.
When you know your triggers, you can work on ways to combat them. Using the same example, perhaps you could call your child or FaceTime them before they go to bed, so you can at least see them. Knowing your triggers can help you to find practical solutions that will make them less powerful.
3. Talk to Someone
An excellent approach to battling the feeling of parent guilt is to talk to someone about it. Talking to other parents is a great place to start. The reality is that no parent is perfect and most feel similiar things even though we suffer in loneliness and silence. Learning from other parents and how they have managed to deal with guilt can give you some insight into your own. Plus, it can teach you different ways to manage it.
4. Focus On the Positive Things
Guilt can start to creep up quickly when you least expect it. Unfortunately, when it does, it can completely take over your thoughts and make you feel like a failure. During those moments of guilt, try to focus on the positive. Reflecting on your parenting style’s positive attributes every day can help you keep guilt at bay all the time.
At the end of every day, try writing down how you helped your kids. It’s also a good idea to write down things you are grateful for. Having gratitude and being thankful for the life you have with your family can make you realize that you don’t always have a reason to feel so guilty.
5. Let Things Go
When you’re dealing with guilt, it isn’t always easy to let go of it. You might find yourself digging up feelings from the past over something you did or didn’t do. Yet, one of the most important ways to manage your guilt is to let things go.
Focus on the things you can change and whatever is in your control, and release the things that are not. When you hold onto the negative things that are out of your control, it can lead to feelings of anxiety and may even contribute to depression.
Parental guilt is real, and it can be damaging to your mental health, as well as your relationship with your family. If you’re struggling to shake those feelings of guilt, feel free to contact me. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
To learn more about how counseling can help with parental guilt, please click here.
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Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!