6 Common Reasons Parents Feel Guilty

Do you feel guilty about the way you're raising your child? Or that you are not doing enough? Remember, there are no perfect parents. Instead, focus on loving and being there for your child.

By Shashwathi Sandeep  • 10 min read

6 Common Reasons Parents Feel Guilty
"Guilt to motherhood is like grapes to wine." — Fay Weldon, British Author

This is true for parents all over the world. As a parent, are you also in the grip of some deep-seated guilt, always wondering whether you are doing things the right way, for your child?

Alen Hilary, consultant clinical psychologist, observes: “There can be different levels of guilt. First-time parents feel anxious or worry about the way they are bringing up their child and question themselves constantly. Also, as the child grows, there is the very natural process where he learns from the environment. Meaning a parent cannot keep the child secure or safe all the time. So, when a child falls down or gets hurt, parents end up blaming themselves."

A 2017 survey conducted by an American frozen foods company revealed that American parents felt guilty every week over decisions they thought weren't right. This is what the study brought out:

  •  75 per cent of parents feel pressured to be 'perfect' from friends, family and social media
  • When rating their own skills, 25 per cent of parents find themselves second-guessing their decisions on a regular basis
  • Not being home enough is one of the top reasons behind parental guilt

However, there are other reasons why parents feel guilty and question their parenting skills:

1. Yelling at the child: As parent, it is natural to feel most guilty after losing your temper or yelling at your child. "More so with working parents. They would have had a terrible day at work and when they come home, they vent that anger on their child,” observes Alen.

  • Suggestion: Scolding your child for his shortcomings can make him lose trust in you. It can also make your child feel anxious and give rise to self-doubt. The best way to not lose your temper is to open up a channel of communication. Instead of yelling, explain to your child in a calm tone what you are feeling. This will help build a strong bond between you and your child. It can be helpful, in such cases, to have grandparents around for your child. “Their presence can be reassuring. For instance, when parents scold the child, the grandparent can help provide balance and resolve the situation,” says Alen.

2. Not spending quality time: When you are unable to unable to spend quality time with your child, of course you feel terrible about it. You worry that you are unable to give your best to your child and that he might feel neglected, as a result. It is possible that you fear that such a situation can create an emotional distance between you and your child. 

  • Suggestion: Weekends are busy times for most working parents. However, there are ways to take care of your weekend household responsibilities and yet spend time with your child too. Involve her in chores like cooking, cleaning or washing clothes. Remember, it can be fun to bond over such tasks. Have a picnic, or better still, get the entire family involved in cooking a meal. Also, ask your child, how she would like to spend time with you at home.

3. Not being able to go on vacations or outings: Well, you might not believe it, but there are parents who feel guilty when they are not able to take their child out — be it on holidays or even, just a short hop to a store. Some parents feel that since they go out often, they should take the child out too.

  • Suggestion: A trip does not necessarily have to be a vacation or holiday to an exotic location. You could also plan for a one-day visit or go on impromptu weekend or overnight trips. And why not do something different — like take a train ride together on the Metro, or go to the airport just to watch planes land and take off — these occasions too can be special and fun, at the same time. What's more, to make it more enjoyable, you could snack out too!

4. Work, work, and more work: This applies to both at-home and working parents equally. Do you find that you are so engrossed or caught up in everyday chores and managing work, that you are unable to spend time with your child? This can make you go on a guilt trip too. 

  • Suggestion: Keep aside a part of the day just for your child and do what she likes, together. That way, you will be happier and your child will also feel that she is an important part of your life. Better time management can help you become more organised so you can take time out from your busy schedule.

5. Too much screen time: This reason tops the chart for most parents! As a parent, you may have given your child a gadget or device to keep him occupied, while you go about completing tasks that need to be done. Increased screen time has been associated with various ill effects on children. This has been examined at length in a study entitled 'Children’s Environmental Health in the Digital Era: Understanding Early Screen Exposure as a Preventable Risk Factor for Obesity and Sleep Disorders', in the journal Children (2018). The authors note: "Increased levels of early screen exposure have been associated with decreased cognitive abilities, decreased growth, addictive behavior, poor school performance, poor sleep patterns, and increased levels of obesity."

  • Suggestion: The future is about integrating advanced technologies into our lives, hence, it is actually good for your child to be familiar with technology. The Internet can help him research a school project, for example. At the same time, make sure your child uses technology wisely. Set limits and rules — ensure he spends no more than 30 minutes a day on a device. This is necessary to prevent excessive use, so your child does not get addicted. Also, monitor what he uses it for, what sites he visits, the games he plays, and so on. 

6. Sickness: Ill-health or illness is something every parent dreads. When your child falls ill, do you also blame yourself? Do you worry that she fell sick because you have not done a good enough job as a parent, or not taken good care of her?

  • Suggestion: Before blaming yourself, stop and think. There can be several reasons for him to fall ill. Sometimes, parents have no control over factors such as seasonal illnesses, coughs, colds and fevers. So, focus on building up your child's immunity instead, and provide him with nutritious food and ensure he has an active lifestyle. Make sure your child has good personal hygiene habits — washing hands before eating, or after using the toilet, so on. That way, your child will be grow up healthy, inside out. 

There are many things parents feel guilty about, every day. The list is endless. But keep in mind that guilt is not really a bad thing. Sometimes, feeling this way can be a sign of love. It can even underscore your commitment to doing the best for your child. However, what does matter is the degree of guilt you experience. There is no need to strive to be a perfect parent. Rather, focus on enjoying the special moments you spend with your child and live life to the fullest.  

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