Mindfulness for Parents: Letting Go of Parent Guilt
Most parents, if not all parents, experience guilt regarding how they responded to their child, what they are able to give their child, the amount of time they spend with their child, developmental delays or diagnoses their child has and so on. Often, parents do not discuss these guilty feelings and even tend to hide them, and, as a result, the guilt can feel overwhelming. Holding on to guilt only increases parent burnout.
Below are some common thoughts and feelings a parent can have. Which ones have you experienced?
- I feel guilt, shame, and/or responsibility for my child’s diagnosis and challenges.
- I feel that I don’t do enough for my child.
- I worry about the impact a diagnosis may have on my child’s self-esteem and if others will treat them differently.
- I worry about what other people think about my effectiveness as a parent, and I worry that people judge my parenting.
- I feel guilty because I thought I would enjoy parenting more.
- I miss doing things I enjoyed doing before they had kids.
- I feel guilty because I want more time for myself.
- I feel guilty because I thought I would enjoy helping my child learn to read, but I really don’t. Why don’t I enjoy this?
- Sometimes, I wish my child had a different temperament or abilities when they have a hard time with something.
- Did I pass on bad genes or habits to my child? Am I the reason for their diagnosis?
- I feel bad that I feel worn out being around my child.
- I feel embarrassed by my child’s actions sometimes.
- I know I shouldn’t feed my child junk food or spend hours on the iPad, but I keep doing it.
- Sometimes, I just don’t know how to parent my child.
- I feel like I am always at war with my child.
- My child wants to take on a hobby that will be difficult for me to fit into my schedule, so I said no. Is this hurting them?
- I constantly feel like I’m not as good of a parent as other parents and as if I’m just not doing a good enough job. What do other parents think about me?
While some of these fears identified above are not true, some may be true, but they aren’t always helpful to how we feel about ourselves and can control our thoughts, which impact our day-to-day and our relationships.
What can we do to let go of parent guilt?
- Talk with a trusted friend, family member or professional about your feelings of guilt
- Take steps to combat negative thoughts and patterns
- Practice mindfulness strategies and self-care
While your feelings of guilt and negative thoughts might not go away entirely, establishing coping mechanisms like those listed above can help you get to a place of having more control over your thoughts and actions. Coping mechanisms and strategies will also help you reach new levels of self-acceptance.
Activity for acceptance
Start with reminding yourself of small or big parenting wins. Reflect on the parenting moments that have made you happy and proud. Write them down and reflect on what you did that made each moment possible. Reflect now on how you will remind yourself of your proud parenting moments and strengths as a parent despite your challenges. Develop a mantra, such as, “I provide my child with unconditional love,” or, “I am there for my child when they feel sad," etc. Write your mantra down and remind yourself of it when times are hard.
After a parenting challenge, reflect on what happened, how it turned out, what the challenges were and what were external factors contributed to it, such as sleep deprivation, work stress, romantic stress, social isolation, etc. Then, learn from it and practice a coping strategy.
To engage in a coping strategy, watch the guided meditation below.
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