Bethan O'Riordan Psyhotherapist

This weeks “ask Bethan” explores parenting guilt

Q: How to  deal with parent  guilt?

Guilt is such a hard emotion.  It sends everyone’s mind into a whir of not feeling good enough which can lead to anxiety and often over compensation and compromising your needs to fill that gap of not feeling like a bad Mum.

Firstly, I’d like to explain what guilt is and that this feeling (like all our difficult emotions) isn’t your fault.  Guilt is our evolutionary developed way of telling us to not do any harm.  Think of it like a smoke detector; guilt alerts us to any potential danger we may stumble upon in our lives.

And the tricky thing about this is that guilt has no gauge.  Guilt can escalate to the worst case scenario very quickly and all it needs is for us to keep it in check.  The way to balance guilty feelings or thoughts is to practice switching to the mindset of ‘good enough’ and ‘quality not quantity’.

I meet parents who feel enormous guilt around being a working parent  or  a stay at home parent  and not enjoying it. They  feel guilty because they shout  too much or are not present enough..  Remember that children don’t need you all of the time and children aren’t looking for their parents to be perfect – whatever that is!.  What children need is for parents to be available when they can be.  Working out what this looks like for you will help you to move towards guilt free parenting.  Try to answer these questions and it will help you become the parent you’d like to be:

  • When can I turn my phone off?  
  • When do I need to sit and watch TV with the kids and when am I available to play?  
  • When is the right time to talk with them about their day?  
  • What do I need to do so that my life is fulfilled and my internal reservoir filled?

The last thing I’d like to mention about guilt is around the topic of parents feeling guilty for shouting.  If this resonates with you, the most important action you can take is to repair it with your child.  Don’t go into a rambling explanation of what and why and don’t apologise for the emotion. A simple “I am sorry I raised my voice at you” is enough.  

Bethan is a Psychotherapist specialising in parenting support. She meets parents online or in person and helps them to be the change their children need. If you’d like more parenting tips to help you be a calmer parent and create healthy relationships with your children, get your free 5 steps to calmer parenting and join the free parenting community Calm & Confident Parenting.

Do you have a parenting questions you’d like Bethan to answer? Simply email her ( and keep an eye out for the response on the Parenting Advise Blog.

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