By Chrissie Davies
There is no doubt that many modern-day parents’ pressures have led to an increase in parental guilt, and it is not showing signs of slowing down any time soon. But when you understand what children need to thrive, you start to realise that the guilt you feel serves no purpose.
Leading to this increase are things like the amount of time women spend in online communities and social media comparing their lives to the carefully poised and curated images shared on Instagram or Pinterest. Many families do not have an unwavering support crew – AKA the village of old, to lean on and offer them support to understand and raise children. Also, some educational institutes are shaming families for the contents of their children’s lunch boxes.
As a child behaviour expert and experienced educator, I have consulted thousands of families over the last 20 years. The most common thing I hear is parents not feeling good enough about themselves. They feel guilty for yelling too much or not spending enough time with their children, and they worry they are stuffing their kids up for life.
What is Parental Guilt?
Like all feelings, guilt is an emotion that affects the way we think, feel, speak, and act. Many parents, especially women, share that they experience parental guilt when it comes to their kids, and they find it difficult to stop these feelings. But the truth is, guilt is a completely normal emotion, like all other feelings such as happiness and sadness. It is what we do with these feelings that matters most. Parents feel so much pressure to get things right for their kids that this places unnecessary worry and self-criticism into their minds. We are growing up a human being – it is an epic task, right? But we are never going to eliminate feelings of guilt. What if we could learn to live with the emotions in more positive ways?
Here’s what you can do.
1 // Seek Expert Advice
Parents are turning to online advice forums at alarming rates. When we have access to leading childhood experts right at our fingertips, why would you ask a stranger for advice or listen to someone who says, ‘my next-door neighbour’s daughter has autism, and it sounds like yours might too.’ You get what you pay for, right? In these cases, free advice is very rarely the best. When you are educated and informed about childhood development, you can make decisions with confidence.
2 // Only Worry About Your Backyard
Stop worrying about what other people are doing. Tune in to your kids and their needs, and you will never go wrong. Your children think the sun rises and sets with you, so start seeing yourself in the same glorious light.
3 // Set Personal Standards
Who makes the rules about what makes you a great parent anyway? You do! It is all about finding your own happy medium. Some weeks my kids get evening meals made from scratch with all the rainbow colours, others they get party pies and an apple. Everybody gets fed, and nobody dies. Some weeks all the school uniforms are freshly washed, folded, and put away – others we are doing a sniff test from the washing basket. But in between, they always get a whole lot of love, emotional connection, laughter, and safety.
4 // Find Your Crew
If you spend time with people who make you feel inadequate or question yourself as a parent, it might be time to find a new crew. One of the challenges that people find once they have children is that their friends may not raise kids with the same values and
expectations as them, which is okay – we are all doing the best we can, right? Be open to your friendships evolving and growing with your kids and family life and surround yourself with people who adore you and your kids for who you are.
5 // Practice the Art of Forgiveness
One weekend I was in such a grump; I was quick to anger and not feeling great in and of myself, and this certainly showed in the way I communicated with my kids. That night as I was tucking them into bed, I apologised for being in a bad mood all day. Both of my kids said, ‘that’s okay mummy, we all have bad days, and we still love you.’ In our family, we practice self-compassion and forgiveness, and we accept each other for who we are – even on bad days.
6 // Your New Mantra Should Be…
I am enough, I am doing my best, I can make mistakes, and I am all that my kids need.
When you begin to see parenting as an ever-evolving process where you are bound to make many mistakes, you can understand that this is an essential and integral part of personal growth and development. We give our kids an incredible gift by teaching them that life is a rollercoaster of emotions, full of ups and downs.
There are always going to be times in our lives when we feel guilty, but if we can learn to channel our thoughts more positively, be proactive and make informed decisions, we can truly lead an incredible life with our children.