Parental Guilt & Shame

I retired last June from a very busy job (providing support and assistance to individuals with acquired brain injury) where I had a lot of responsibility & my self-identity was closely tied to my work.

Although I have tried to do things to keep busy, I have found myself with time to “think” about my adult children’s issues (son has some issues with anxiety/depression).

I had thought I had done a pretty good job of parenting my children; however, after reading articles/self-help books (most attribute children’s issues with anxiety and self-esteem to early parenting experiences).

I find myself mired in self-blame as well as blame towards my husband. When I apologized to my son, he stated that it was not my or my husband’s fault—stated that it was due to bullying when he was in middle/high school—stated that we were great parents. Of course, now I blame myself for not doing more re the bullying—although my son reassured me that I tried to get him to talk about it and he wouldn’t.

As you can see, I am mired in a cycle of self-blame, which I am having difficulty getting past. I have been trying meditation and will be going to counselling. Still bombarded by thoughts and memories of situations that I feel I handled badly, which is leading me down the road of depression.

Would appreciate any thoughts/suggestions.

Comments for Parental Guilt & Shame

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Sometimes you just can't figure it out
by: June, GA

I have three daughters. Raised them alone. They were 3, 7 and 9 when I divorced their dad. I devoted the next 14 years working and taking care of my girls. It was all about them, no help or concern from dad.

I remarried at 45, the youngest going away to college. He was mean and controlling; divorced him after 5 years.

My older girls are close to me and say they had a great childhood. The youngest blamed me for anything and everything wrong in her life. The older two have no idea where all this animosity comes from; neither do I. So I just leave her alone; check up on her to make sure she is ok and have come to the realization that our relationship is what it is. As long as she is healthy and safe, I am ok with the situation and realize I can't change it. I have stopped beating myself up and you should too.

Some things just can't be fixed.

parental guilt
by: Cindi H, NC

As everyone has pointed out - your son does not blame you, don't blame yourself. This is not meant to be rude, but the world does not spin around you.

What you do or do not do has some impact on the life of your son but it's not the only impact. Many people, including himself, have impact on his life. I say this only because it sounds like you are thinking cause and effect here. If only I had done such and such, he would have no problems. Yes he would!

We all have problems in life and that's ok. We learn to deal with them. You are not perfect, but you are not spinning the world. It's not your job to be responsible for everything that happens.

My husband and I have 5 children. The first four also happen to have their own official mother. They all have their own sets of problems in varying degrees but they also have their own strengths and virtues and we love them all and they love us.

It is not easy to see ones we love suffer - we want to fix everything instantly. Some things we can help with. Some things we cannot.

Can I suggest focusing more on finding something you can do everyday to make a positive impact on the world around you?

Open a door for someone struggling, plant a tree, say a kind word to a stranger or loved one instead of being silent. This will help both yourself and others. Start small and build from that. It will lift you up.

You cannot change the past or control everything in the world. That's ok. Do what little you can.

Wendy: Yes, So good!

It's Not Your Fault
by: Tim C / So Cal


I too deal with anxiety, as did my father and as does my adult son. A predisposition to anxiety is genetic, but I really didn't start having serious issues until after my father died in 2006. The way my therapist explains it, picture a 5-pound bag of anxiety. When he was alive, my dad and I shared it so neither of us carried too much. Now that he's gone, I got the full 5-pound load. Anxiety is mine to deal with. I didn't "catch" it from my dad, nor did he cause it.

My son started having issues in high school, probably because it was much larger than his middle school and he had trouble socializing. We got him into therapy and he's doing fine now. My own therapist assured me I didn't cause his anxiety; its just a matter of genetics like having green eyes or black hair.

Your son doesn't blame you and you shouldn't blame yourself. One coping mechanism I've learned is to be your own best friend. Put yourself in the position of being a friend to someone who just told you she feels responsible for her son's anxiety. What would you tell her? Then give yourself the same advice.

I too was bullied in middle school and it may have exacerbated my anxiety later in life. Like most kids, I never told my parents. But I made a deal with myself never to be bullied, never to bully anyone else, and never sit idly by if people close to me were bullied. That turned my negative experience into something positive for myself and for others.

Cut yourself and your husband a little slack and move forward!

No guilt
by: Dave

Hi, why beat yourself up? You and your partner have tried your best with your son ,bringing him up . You cannot go back ,nor can you go forward blaming yourself for life choices ,maybe you should have turned left and not right ,maybe you should have known about your sons bullying . However your son doesn't blame you.I and obviously cares for you both, isn't that a better reward than the what it's. Live your life as best as you can worry about the future not the past ,seize the day and move on . We all try to do good ,we all try to make our child's life the best it can be ,sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but being there is as good as you can hope for and probably all he may want or need

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