Portmarnock and Mount Merrion

How to cope with Parental Guilt

Parenting is hard.  Many of the challenges you face are new and difficult, and it is common to feel guilty when you feel that you’re not meeting your expectations of what your child needs.


You may feel you should be doing things differently, or that you’re not coping.  It can also feel overwhelming when you are stuck in a headspace where you want the best for your child, but feel that whatever you do is not good enough.


As parents, our role shifts and develops over time. The concerns we have about sleep in early childhood, can become fears about our child making friends in school, to worries about how our teenager will cope with greater independence in their decision-making.


At each age and stage there will be aspects of parenting that will trigger feelings of disappointment, failure and guilt.  Learning how to respond to these emotions and reset your parenting goals and expectations is vital to supporting the emotional health of both you and your child.  In this advice blog, we will explore ways to cope with parental guilt and the tools that can help you focus on what matters most.


How to cope with parental guilt


1. You’re not alone in this


Feeling guilty as a parent is a common feeling. Many parents feel the same way, even if they don’t talk about it. Listening to or reading stories from other parents can help to bring a sense of relief and connection.  Is there a friend who you can schedule in time to chat with about how you are feeling? Or if you find yourself without that type of support in your community right now, is there somewhere (online or in-person) where you can seek it?  In these Advice Podcasts on our Parent App we share some of the most common reasons that parents who attend our Psychology Clinic experience guilt:


2. Remember there is no one right way to parent


We often hear from parents who are looking for a clear answer on what is the ‘right’ thing to do in a situation with their child. A gentle shift away from this perspective is to reframe our plan to what is ‘best’ for your child.


This might sound simple, but deciding what is best as opposed to what is right can helpfully move our focus away from the perfect response, to the one this fits best with our parenting style and our child’s needs.  It can be really difficult to let go of this desire for the right answer, especially when much in our work or personal life can be focused on this outcome.  The following are some Advice Podcasts to help you nourish the mantra that your good enough is good enough:


3. Notice your inner critic and story you are telling yourself


It can be difficult to give yourself a break when your inner bully is telling you that you don’t deserve one.  Sometimes we don’t even notice that this critic has become our dominant inner storyteller, and this can shape how we view our tough moments and our successes.


Take a moment to check in – are you critical of yourself and your parenting? What do you say to yourself in those situations where you feel guilty? If it is difficult to tune into these thoughts, it can help to listen to our guided podcast ‘Noticing your Inner Critic’ (6 mins) on our Parent App to help you get started.


Once you’ve taken this step to become more aware of the story you are telling yourself, you will be ready to reflect on how you can respond to yourself in a more realistic and compassionate way.  Try to think if you would talk to your family or friends in the same way? Reflect on the positives in your parenting and highlight successes, the big and the small.


Again, our Psychology Team have created a guided podcast to support you in this process:

(Click here to listen to our ‘Responding to your Inner Critic’ podcast – 8 mins – in the ‘Your Stuff’ section on our Parent App)


4. Stop comparing yourself to others – especially on social media

It is natural to look to others when you are wondering how to parent your child through a particular experience, or when you are wondering if you are doing the ‘right thing’.  However, it can be difficult to nourish confidence in yourself and your parenting when you feel that you are not measuring up to what you hear or see online.


Our advice to parents who attend our clinic is to take simple steps to try to avoid looking at and comparing yourself to what others are doing. Remember that people carefully curate what they want you to see about their parenting online – but you also get to curate what you allow into your headspace.  This might involve making a list of sites or social media accounts that are unhelpful when it comes to building confidence in your parenting style.  Take a trial period to restrict or unfollow these accounts and see if you notice a difference.  It can be more difficult to curate what information comes your way in real life but again it can help to think about ways to limit your contact with people who trigger you.


The following are some meditations to help you shift focus and feel more confident in your parenting:


5. Practice self-compassion


Finally (and probably most importantly!) is that you can’t pour from a jug that’s empty.  Your own wellbeing and care for yourself is a vital support for your parenting – and key to managing parent guilt.


Learning how to be kinder to yourself can start with a focus on the simple building blocks for wellbeing.  Here are some prompts that can help you get started:


  • Have you done anything to care for yourself this week?
  • Are there 3 things you can introduce into your routine this week to care for your body?
  • Is there 1 thing you can introduce into your routine this week to help you relax into better sleep?
  • What is blocking you right now from being kinder to yourself?
  • Or what thoughts come up when you try to bring self-care into your week?
  • Can you try this personal mantra: What would make today or this week easier?
  • What’s one thing you can do for yourself each morning and each evening to slow down and reduce feeling rushed?


We know that caring for yourself is not an easy process, or an ‘easy’ fix when you are feeling guilty and burnt out. The following are some of our most listened to podcasts and most used meditations to help to be gentler with your parent self:

  • Ideas for Self-care (9 mins)
  • How to be kinder to yourself (8 mins)
  • Meditation: Letting go of the small stuff (14 mins)
  • Meditation: For when you feel guilty (16 mins)

February Offer –

Click here and use code INSIG30 to get 30% off our premium annual subscription across all 3 Apps 

Psychological Support for the whole family.

Offer available until the end of February. 


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