How To Deal With Overwhelming Parental Guilt

Raising a child is hard work, but the sweet, fun moments you have with them make the sleepless nights, taking them to daycare, and teaching them daily tasks worth the struggle. However, while raising your child, there are moments when you might feel like you're not doing enough. In addition, you're comparing yourself to other parents or unsure which decisions will be the best for your kid. This is known as parental guilt; you feel that your choices might negatively affect your child's life.


Parental guilt can stem from how your parents raised you. You might have different values from your parents and want to raise your kids without some of the methods your parents used. When it comes to having your first child, it can be challenging to figure out the "right" way to do things. The truth is there's no right way to be a parent. You can do everything you think will be best for your child, but as they grow up, they'll be the ones to have their thoughts and opinions. Therefore, it's essential to be there for them as much as possible. However, balancing work, raising a child, and your social life can be tricky — which is where you'll feel the most parental guilt. Here are a few ways to deal with overwhelming parental guilt.


Identify what overwhelms you

Parental guilt is temporary — but when you experience that guilt, it can consume your life. You might not know how to deal with it and, instead, get caught up in a whirlwind of emotions. A great way to slowly overcome parental guilt is by figuring out what's causing it. Write down specific encounters you've had with your child that made you feel guilty. It might remind you of scenarios you went through with your parents. It can also pull from past trauma, mental health conditions, or simply trying to parent your child differently from how you were brought up.


By journaling moments of guilt, there will be a few that overlap and create visible themes. For example, you maybe feel guilty over certain foods you let your child eat that you weren't allowed to eat when you were younger. You probably see other parents on social media feeding their kids "healthier" snacks or meals that make you feel guilty for giving your child too many cookies. Allowing your kids to enjoy sweet and tasty treats every once in a while isn't going to make you the worst parent in the world. You can make sure to balance out the sugary food with vegetables throughout the day. In addition, writing down these triggers will allow you to watch out for them the next time they might occur. Then, you'll be able to make positive changes to prevent guilt.


Know your values

Once you figure out what triggers your parental guilt and whether it stems from your childhood, it can help you determine the kind of parent you want to be. Knowing your core values will help guide you in making decisions for your child. Even though it won't make parenting as a whole easier, you'll have something in mind when it comes to food choices, school, or screen time. Some parents write down mission statements representing their values to help them stick with them.


Core values can often be looked at as "house rules," but they're used to influence behaviors and attitudes. If you have strong core values that you act on and show through your behaviors, your kids will observe and know to follow them. For example, if you think it's essential to get eight hours of sleep, you'll make it your mission to turn off all electronic devices by a specific time, such as 8 p.m., for your kids to sleep. However, letting your children stay up late a few nights goes against your values, and might make you feel guilty for not ensuring they get enough sleep. When you abide by your values, the parental guilt will go away.

Trust your intuition

As a parent, you can only do so much to lead your child down the right path, but it's crucial to remember that no parent is perfect. You will make mistakes, but it's a learning process. The best thing you can do as a parent is to trust your intuition. It's known that following the feeling in your gut can help protect you and those around you, like your kids. You'll be able to make better decisions by connecting with yourself and being in tune with your feelings.


Parents just know when something terrible is happening or is going to happen. You've probably questioned your mom or dad once on how they knew about something occurring, and they responded with, "A mom's instinct never lies." They always have a feeling in their stomach or an unsettling thought that makes them check in with their kids. For example, their child might be fussy, and their parent knows why or feels it could be the same thing as a previous situation. You become familiar with your child's behaviors, what upsets them, and what makes them happy. This can help you make decisions and make you a better parent.

Surround yourself with like-minded people

A big part of parental guilt is comparing your parent's strategies to someone else's — whether a friend, family member, or random stranger on social media. Everyone has their parenting styles, but it's important to surround yourself with other like-minded parents so that you don't feel the overwhelming guilt from parents with different parenting styles than you. While it's okay for everyone to share their opinion, you don't want them to make you feel bad over how you decide to raise your children. If you tend to have know-it-all friends in your life that make you feel guilty over the choices you make for your kid, then you don't want to confide in them with personal issues.


Instead of being surrounded by other parents who bring you down, find a supportive community of friends and family who will give you beneficial advice when you ask. Sometimes other parents who share similar experiences with you will be able to relate and tell you what they did to handle parental guilt. On the other hand, if you don't have a close in-person community, various parents offer tips and tricks on social media. You just have to find the ones who speak about their experiences in a way you can connect rather than talking down on other parents' parenting styles.

Prevent the spreading of parental guilt

It's easy to get caught up and overwhelmed over parental guilt when you see it on social media, in school, or at the park you take your kids to. However, you don't want to engage in that spread by doing the same thing. For example, if you feel guilty over letting your kids have too much screen time, hearing parents talk about how they don't allow their kids to have screen time can amplify that guilt. Yet, if you let your child have hours of screen time, don't shame other parents for doing the same.


Be mindful of what you post on social media to prevent spreading parental guilt. Instead, post uplifting content encouraging parents to follow their intuition and do what they think is best for their children. When you spread positivity and support, you inspire other parents to do the same, which could help eliminate parental guilt.

Listen to your kids

Listening to your kids is just as important as listening to your intuition. Kids are the most brutally honest people you will ever have in your life. Sometimes it's a good thing, and other times it's uncomfortable — like when they tell you your shirt isn't as cute as you thought it was. However, they'll be able to openly share their thoughts on things you might need help with.


For example, if your kids want your attention when you're working or cleaning the house, scheduling a time to play with them can give them the attention they need. Have a conversation with them about what needs to get done first to have free time with them later. Instead of feeling guilty for doing things that are a priority, creating a schedule will make you a more organized parent.

Talking with your child can teach them how to communicate effectively with you regarding their needs. In addition, if you have to set time aside to play with them, it will teach them how to be patient while they're waiting for you to finish your tasks.

Protect your values

Other parents will try to change your values with their opinions, but you must stand your ground and protect your beliefs. Your personal decisions don't affect anyone except yourself, just like how other parents raise their children don't affect you. However, when other parents challenge your parenting skills, don't let them make you feel guilty or second-guess yourself. You can simply take their advice with a grain of salt and walk away.


Once you allow other parents to dictate your decisions, you won't be able to think freely about how you want to raise your kids. You'll have everyone's opinions and suggestions in the back of your mind when you decide. Instead, stick with your core values and stand up for yourself if needed. It's okay to agree to disagree when you can't see eye-to-eye with other viewpoints. Dealing with parental guilt is exhausting and overwhelming, so take time to care for yourself when raising a child. Incorporate self-care nights by yourself or with friends to de-stress and recharge.