In Part 1, I explained the two types of guilt, healthy guilt and inappropriate guilt (let’s call it i-guilt) and explored the reasons why as mothers we experience it so much, particularly i-guilt.
Now in this part I am looking at how to effectively deal with it.
This is basically a mechanism that makes us re-examine our behaviour. Healthy guilt encourages us to learn and often take action.
For example, apologising after an argument when things said were less than ideal or realising that the for our health it would have been good to stop after the first (or second) portion of cake, rather than carrying on.
Dealing With Healthy Guilt
With healthy guilt the key is to accept that there is something wrong and take responsibility for it. Making amends, changing our behaviour or just learning the lessons that the guilt is telling us about, are all great ways to use it to our own benefit.
Acknowledgement is important but so is letting go. Once we have taken from it what we can, then it is best to be kind to ourselves and accept that everyone makes mistakes.
Now this sounds so easy to do but as parents we really want to do what is best for our kids all the time. We would like to be the best version of ourselves each moment of the day, but that is just not possible. Sometimes we get things wrong and when we do, it can be hard to accept.As parents we want to be the best of ourselves everyday for our children but it is just not possible Click To Tweet
At these times it can be useful to remember that children don’t need everything to be perfect. They need to understand the world that they live in and who they are as individuals. They grow in confidence through learning how to deal with their feelings. One key element of that, is for them to not be afraid of making mistakes. They learn this from us. When we acknowledge our mistakes they learn that it is okay for them too.When we acknowledge our mistakes our children learn that it is okay for them to make mistakes too Click To Tweet
A common example of where we feel guilty as parents is if we lose our temper with our kids.
As mothers we often feel that we need to be eternally patient but it is just not possible all the time. Children can benefit from seeing us angry, being forgiven quickly and if appropriate being apologised to. Now whilst I am not suggesting that being angry at our kids often is a good idea (or being exceptionally angry at any time), I am saying that they learn from it. Anger is a part of life and we all need to know how to handle.
So whilst any mistakes we make with our children feel awful to us, in long run they may not be as bad as we think.
This is guilt that we feel when there is really nothing to learn or to change.
It is often experienced over decisions we have made from anything to going back to work/staying at home or not taking our babies to swimming lessons. It can be triggered by the smallest things and it experienced by parents everywhere.
Dealing With I-Guilt
The first step is to acknowledge when it is i-guilt. When we know that there is nothing to be learnt but instead it is a feeling that is occurring because we can’t be or do everything, then we can start the process of letting it go.
As parents we want to be and do the best we can. We feel guilt because we constantly assess what is right for our children. Once we know it is i-guilt we are experiencing then it is time to stop and congratulate ourselves for how much we consider our children and their needs.
Add some perspective
What ever it is that you are feeling guilty about normally can benefit from some perspective.
Maybe when we really think about big life challenges then we can realise that what we feel bad about is not, on the scale of things so awful, for our kids.
Or it may be that what we feel bad about is something big, that we have no control over.
A child being ill
A sibling with problems that means that there is little time and attention for the other child
There are many life issues that children around the world have to face as part of family life.
It is difficult as a parent to know that our children are facing genuine challenges. However, we all learn from difficulties, including kids. Lasting problems for children come not from experiencing challenges in childhood but from not being supported and accepted as the person they are with the feelings they have.
Accepting that no one is perfect and there is no ideal way to be a mum also helps with i-guilt. Seeking to get everything ‘right’ is a sure way to feeling guilty because it is just not possible. Our children need us to be ourselves and gain hugely from learning through the people we are.
In the same vain, neither is there a perfect life (despite the idealised presentations we see online and through the media).
Children don’t need a perfect world in order to be healthy or happy. They need a real world that helps them learn about and accept themselves. In fact, a child that never experienced any challenges would not know how to handle it when it came along.
Sometimes guilt takes the form of a repetitive argument in our minds. However, once we have acknowledged that it is i-guilt and realised that there is nothing to be done, then simply refusing to argue it back and forth in our minds can be hugely helpful.
When we find ourselves in a loop of worry and guilt, simply noting it and then getting ourselves to choose to think of something else, gradually releases its power over time. If there is a genuine concern over wether you have made the best decision or not then give it a time scale. For example, putting the guilt down for a week might be appropriate whilst you see how the situation works out.
Putting guilt down, in a very similar way to worrying, can take practice especially if it is something that plagues you. If this is the case then it may be that you find yourself repeatedly having to stop the round and round argument in your mind. That is okay. It is a little like weight training, the more we do it the stronger we get.
For me twinges of guilt are a part of parenting. It is a part of me checking my choices and decisions. It is of benefit to a point. That point is crossed, however, when it undermines who I am and my ability to enjoy being a mother. I forgive my kids quickly for their mistakes and I try to apply the same rule to myself (although this can be easier said than done)
I am so interested to hear your thoughts on dealing with guilt. Do you have any other things that you have found helpful or have you found it challenging to be in control of your guilt? I would love to hear from you.
So what is next?
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