mother working from home with small daughter facing parental guilt 682x408

THRIVE

The verdict for parents during coronavirus? Not guilty!

  • Remember the cycle of change: Things in life are good, then things get difficult, and then things eventually bounce back.
  • A parent doesn’t need to be perfect; you just need to be “good enough”.
  • Social distancing is challenging for everyone but don’t let guilt take over your life.

As a parent or caregiver you’ve been sheltering in place for several weeks and yet you may still feel ill-equipped in this new “normal” lifestyle. At times, your household may feel like pandemonium. You may worry that your kids have too much screen time or not enough structure. Your kids may be demanding more of your attention while you’re trying to balance working from home. You may feel guilty for being irritable and yelling at your kids, struggling with distance learning apps for their school work. You may feel guilty because your kids are missing out on activities, such as school sports, prom, graduation, or other important events. And, your kids may be reacting by throwing more tantrums, arguing and fighting more, or challenging your authority.

How to deal with feelings of guilt

It’s OK. Relax! Breathe! Coronavirus is not your fault nor can you fix it. Social distancing is challenging for everyone, but it’s vital that you don’t let guilt take over your life. Instead, remember the cycle of change: Things in life are good, then things get difficult, and then things eventually bounce back. This time spent living through a pandemic can be many things: a time of calm, a time of upset, a time of setting goals, and a time for realistic emotions. Pandemonium need not prevail!

Instead, during extended home time due to the coronavirus try to:

  • tolerate the stress
  • manage uncertainty by forgiving yourself and those around you
  • acknowledge there will be better times.

Guilt can be a healthy and normal emotion. It can serve as a reminder that you may need to adjust your lens. Were you too snappy with your response? Maybe you do owe your child an apology? If your guilt is appropriate, it can serve a purpose. You can take action and “fix” things by apologizing, for example. If your guilt is not appropriate try to accept the fact that you are not at fault and cut yourself some slack.

You don’t need to be perfect, strive for good enough

We can all embrace and learn from what famous English pediatrician and psychoanalyst DW Winnicott had to say. He wisely reminded us that a parent need not be “perfect,” you simply need to be “good enough”. The goal should be that your child only feels a slight amount of frustration. A good example is if you let your newborn baby cry for a few minutes, (but for only a few minutes) before his or her nighttime feeding. With good enough parenting, your child lives in two worlds: the world of healthy childhood fantasy and play, and a world that does not always conform to his or her wishes.

In my expert opinion, we don’t damage our children by being imperfect: Instead, we teach them that we may not be able to “fix” everything or to make it all better. Because you can never meet your child’s every need from their point of view.

Being a ‘good enough’ parent can help give you realistic goals and wellbeing during uncertain times. The concept can free you by liberating you from the often lofty expectations of your children and yourself. No one is perfect. Striving for perfection is impossible and unhealthy modeling for your children.

So, I challenge us all to embrace the concept of ‘good enough’. This perspective to living can help soothe your mind, body and soul. We will all fail our children. You will fail your child.  It happens and it’s OK. Your kids will be OK. Cut yourself some slack, allow in the light and wonderment during this unprecedented, challenging time for everyone.

What can work for parents stuck at home with their kids right now?

  • pick your battles
  • apologize when it’s warranted
  • be authentic.

When this is all over you are your own judge and harshest critic.  So, reach for the gavel now and decide that you don’t need to be perfect. In the end, you will likely be a happier, more guilt-free parent. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Integrative health and wellness coaching

    Learn more
  • Mental Health & Addiction Connection

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