In this sneak peek of the Positive Parenting article from our Spring issue, Anna Cole compassionately addresses the issue of parental guilt: an all-too-common emotion to those who always strive to do their best for the children in their care. You can read the full article by picking up a copy of the Spring issue, or subscribing to have it delivered straight to your door.
By Anna Cole
‘Guilty feet have got no rhythm.’
The longer I work with parents, and the longer I am a parent, the more I realise that we all feel truck-loads of guilt. We instinctively don’t want our children to get hurt. Ever. We ardently wish we could make a perfect life for them. But, unfortunately, we don’t have the power to protect our children from all the hurts we wish we could: the loss of a beloved family member that knocked you, and them, for six; the move you did for work and the dislocation on your child’s schooling; or perhaps you stayed put, but the class bully picked on your child; maybe you got sick and haven’t been able to be there as much as you’d like; perhaps violence or impoverishment in your neighbourhood has affected your child, or perhaps, like many of us, you’ve been through separation or divorce and worry about the impact of that on your child. You will be able to add to this list, I am sure.
So here’s the headline: it’s not possible to make our child’s life perfect. And the good news is: it’s also not necessary. Children come with a simple, elegant way of recovering from hurt, which I will discuss in our next issue. Right now I want to focus on what we as parents can do to help ourselves so we can best help our kids.
The first thing you need to know is that you have done your best. It’s not your fault things got hard, but it is your responsibility to do something about it. Take your regret to your Listening Partner (for more information on Listening Partnerships and how to find one, see the link in ‘resources’ below). In your Listening Partnership you can cry, tremble, shout and rage about the things you regret. Shed those tears. They are the rain that falls and makes the flowers so sweet in the spring. Share the dark thoughts you have, then leave them behind, and when you start feeling bad again, go back and have another Listening Partnership. You have the right to be pleased with yourself, and that’s what your child wants for you. They don’t want you feeling awful. They want you to play. They want you to be there with them, present and relaxed.