We are not immune from parental guilt, which can be intensified during divorce. One feels like they could have done more for the children, even when nearly at the breaking point. It is a challenge to juggle so many balls in the air during proceedings and not drop one from time to time. We can be our own worst critic – when in reality our actions were fine.
When Feeling Parental Guilt, Talk It Over with Your Kids
What helps is to have a conversation with the children and tell them that you are under stress. If you snap at the youngsters or are a bit blunt, it is not about them but rather your tense situation. This helps the kids to feel more secure when told they are not the source of your periodic angry outbursts. When I was about to lose it, I took a time out. I told my sons to let me read for awhile and then I would be calmer.
When feeling that you have failed your children, talk it over with them. Often my sons did not see that anything was wrong, when I thought they were hurt or disappointed. Getting their perspective was a good reality check for me. Apologize if appropriate. Let the youngsters know that you feel badly for what happened. Both of you will feel better afterwards. This is a good example for them to see that when someone has messed up, say that you are sorry.
Even when some things cannot be helped, we still feel guilt. You may have a mandatory meeting at work scheduled during your daughter’s class play. An obligation may keep you from your son’s rugby match. Express your disappointment and let your child talk about how they feel. Reassure offspring that you still love them when you cannot be with them.
You are Not a Bad Parent for the Occasional Absence
Do not label yourself as a bad parent when it is your choice to do something that you need to do for yourself. I recently had to stop calling myself a “bad mum” since I chose to go to a conference in London when my son would be home from university for spring break. I was torn about whether or not to leave; however, I decided to take the trip. As it turned out, my son had to work and departed before I did.
Take Steps to De-Stress
Notice where in your body you feel tension when you get that parental guilt. It may be a tightening in the chest or discomfort in the gut. When these sensations start to occur, recognize the need to step back and regroup. Take deep breaths, go on a walk, do meditation or whatever relaxes you to prevent your stress level from escalating. When I started getting anxious during my divorce, my sons told me to take a “chill pill,” which was their way of saying to calm down. Going out with friends was my cure. Discussing perceived parental shortcomings with others can help you realize that you are actually doing a great job, or your friends may have made a much bigger mistake than you did. It’s nice to know that other parents are not perfect either. Swapping stories about missing school events and losing one’s temper lets you know that you are not alone.
In spite of making parenting missteps which resulted in guilt, my sons turned out fine and do not hold any grudges. They laugh at a few things that I did as parent and felt guilty about at the time. We can be too hard on ourselves. Keeping lines of communication open is a way to alleviate parental guilt. Having balance in life is necessary. What also helped to reduce parental guilt was to schedule fun events into our lives, such as a weekend in Disneyland or regularly watching comedies. We enjoyed local festivals, picnics, and hikes. It is harder to focus on parental guilt when laughing with the kids.