Many parents feel guilty and experience regrets because their children had to go through a difficult time due to their parent’s issues or hard times in life. Some examples can be an unhealthy marriage where there are many fights, a divorce, a marriage where there’s physical or emotional abuse, depression, sickness, being poor, or the loss of a loved one. Parents can experience these feelings whether they have young children or adult ones.
Besides the personal emotional pain of a regret sufferer, parents tend to compromise the guilt they feel for their child’s suffering by buying them things, by saying yes to most of what they ask for, or simply by not properly teaching them healthy discipline at home. Whichever the form of giving back to our children for the pain caused, is not healthy for them or for the parent.
There are different aspects of regret that we need to recognize, understand and deal with in order to stop the unhealthy behaviors driven by guilt:
- Acknowledge the feeling and locate where it comes from in order to make sense of it. I’d suggest that you journal about it.
- Recognize that you aren’t able to go back in time to do something different from what you did before.
- Realize that no matter how you want to make it up to your children for the difficult times they’ve gone through, you actually cannot make them unlive what they’ve lived through.
- Take a long look at yourself today and recognize that today you’re a different person than when you behaved in a way that made you feel regretful. You’re also a different person from the time when you had to go through a life change or a difficult period. You’ve grown and you’ve gained experience to deal with life differently.
- Recognize that the feelings of guilt and or regret aren’t fruitful to you or to your children. They’re negative and stunt your inner growth.
- Know that you can do differently and better by your young children today to build a different experience for them and for you.
- If you’re a parent to adult children, know that just as you have taken responsibility to heal yourself from your past experiences, your adult children hold the same responsibility toward themselves. You can apologize and you can support them, but you cannot heal them. It’s their personal journey.
- Lastly, making the decision to let go of the guilt and regret which might bother you sometimes or harass you daily. It’s truly making the decision to let it go to the past.
When we hold on to the past, we are unable to live in the present.
In turn, we are most probably unable to live mindfully building a better tomorrow for ourselves and others.
Regret and guilt keep you living in the past. Therefore, with this new understanding, it’s important to make the conscious decision to forgive yourself, and let it go. Instead embracing your best version of yourself today.
Obviously, if you can apologize, do so and then move on. Also, make sure that you’ve learned from your past experiences so that you can embrace a healthier, wiser, more mindful you, who acts after critical thinking, rather than reacting after experiencing a feeling.
Children are always watching their parents.
Most behaviors are learned behaviors from our parents. Children experience growth since birth but so do parents. As human beings, we’re always evolving. I believe that your young children and adult children alike will benefit from your growth, from you letting go of the past and embracing the best you are now.
It’s important to know that letting go of guilt and regret begins with a decision, but it’s actually a journey and it’s important to exercise compassion and love toward yourself in order to achieve the self-forgiveness that will enable you to fully let go of your past behaviors with love and peace.
If you are able to, seek the assistance of a professional to support you and or your children through a process of healing.
With much love,