multiethnic family resting together on sofa with dog in living room

Are you struggling with parental guilt? This is where you feel bad or negatively towards your relationship with your children, the actions you take and the things you do with your children in mind. Many parents, in fact the vast majority of them, will have felt parental guilt at some point in time. That moment before you go to sleep where you have regret for your reactions, the things you did. The feeling that you are not good enough or being good enough for your children. It can be such a balance and while you will be doing the very best you can, that critical voice inside your head will still nitpick and tell you where you have been going wrong. 

So what can you do about it? Thankfully understanding parental guilt, when it is likely to strike and also some of the simple changes you can make and things you can do can help you to start to feel better about things. With that in mind, here are some of the things to consider. 

Image source – pixabay – cco license

Why do you feel parental guilt?

One of the first things to think about would be why you feel parental guilt? Is there a running theme for the feelings that you have. Such as losing your patience too frequently, becoming a shouty parent more often or generally getting frustrated. Is it specific actions that get to you or is it the lack of action on your part and you are berating yourself saying that you could be doing more? There are so many reasons as to why you might be feeling parental guilt. So let’s explore some of the most common reasons in more detail. 

Not doing enough

A big issue that all parents face each day is the feeling of not doing enough. This could be various different reasons as not enough is quite broad. It might be that you get to the end of the day and feel like you weren’t present with your child. Maybe you didn’t do enough to help them with homework or schooling. Maybe you didn’t play with them when they asked? Perhaps you have let them have screen time more or feel like you just want them to spend time in their rooms rather than with you. These are just some of the scenarios in which you may find yourself at the end of the day saying that you haven’t done enough. 

No routine in place

You may feel parental guilt because you don’t have a routine in place. Your child may stay up late and not sleep. Perhaps spend time on their devices for too long. Maybe they don’t eat at similar times or snack a lot forcing them to not want meals properly. These things can give you guilt if you don’t spend time implementing a routine and structure that benefits your child as well as your own day. It can be isolating but a routine can be easily established. It just takes a bit of time and effort. 

Not spending time with your children 

Another reason you might feel parental guilt is if you are not spending enough time with your children. You may be with them all day but yet feel like you haven’t had any quality time with them. This might be playing games with them, watching a film and generally doing fun things. Often we can have excuses as to why we don’t do these things very often and then berate ourselves at night and feel guilty for not having done them. The more we focus on the things we don’t do, the more guilty we will feel. 

Worrying you are doing things wrong

Last of all, another common thing to feel parental guilt over is worrying that you are doing things wrong. Your reaction to certain events or behaviours. How they eat and the way they spend their time. Their lack of knowledge in an area at school or not knowing how to do something that you think they should. These are all things that we can beat ourselves up with all of the time and they can be very damaging to our own mental health and wellbeing. Focusing too much on what you don’t do rather than the things that you do get right. 

Image source – pixabay – cco license

What do all these things have in common?

Of course, we haven’t mentioned every reason and because parental guilt can be such a personal thing, it might be that you have a different reason as to why you feel it each day. But there is a lot that they all have in common and that is a focus on negativity and the things you don’t do rather than the things that you do get right. Many of us can program our brains so that we don’t get to focus on the positive aspects of our parental life. We constantly judge ourselves in a bad light and this is where parental guilt can take hold. However it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Simple things you can do to improve your day to day lives with your children

There are simple things that you can do each day to help you feel more at ease with your parental style and enable you to focus on the good things. Initially, you may have to focus on how you think and look for the positive aspects of your day. At the end of each day try and focus on the good rather than ridicule yourself on the bad or things you didn’t do. This will feel hard at first but the more often you do it the more it will become a positive habit for you. If you like to focus on physical things you can do then try some of these suggestions. 

Reading together

You could try reading together or encouraging your child to read but actively taking an interest. Reading is such an important aspect of your child’s education, but many children can be disheartened with it and also not know how to relax and enjoy it. You could even look into how to read to children and make it part of your routine or just something that you can do together on your own. This could be a lovely activity to do if you have more than one child as it could give you important one to one time with each child. Which can be another reason for parental guilt. 

Helping with schoolwork and studies

Take time to help them with their schoolwork or homework. It might be hard or you may find that you lose patience but taking a few moments to help them through tricky assignments and to enable them to understand something more clearly will give you such an incredible boost. 

Playing games together

Playing together is one of the things that you may beat yourself up about that you don’t do enough. So why not try and make some time to play board games or do things differently. Perhaps learn a new board game, or try out a different one each week. You could even take time to jigsaw puzzles as this can be relaxing and also the perfect chance to have some time away from screens and online gaming. 

Being active 

Last of all, be active. Get out for a walk, exercise together and enjoy eachothers company. The more you do things like this, the more you will feel happier within yourself. Exercise and general activity is good not just for your mental health but the mental health and wellbeing of your children. 

Let’s hope this helps you to tackle the common parental guilt. 

By Erica Buteau

Change Agent. Daydream Believer. Maker. Creative. Likes love, peace and Jeeping. Dislikes winter, paper cuts and war. She/Her/Hers.

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