How to Deal With Parental Guilt

Parental guilt can result in disabling angst stemming from feelings of inadequacy or self-blame 2. Because guilt generally does not accomplish a positive outcome, it’s important to resolve parental guilt 1. Although the process of moving forward and away from parental guilt can be challenging, emotional health may be elusive for parent and child without this step 2. Free yourself from the bonds of parental guilt to reclaim a proper perspective 2.

Examine the situations that form the basis of your parental guilt to determine your specific responsibility 2. Warning: If you’ve wrapped yourself up so tightly in guilt that you have trouble assessing the situation effectively, you may need help with this from an impartial and objective person. For example, if you have parental guilt about the amount of time that you spend with your child, you may need objective input about whether you are assessing the situation correctly 2.

Apologize to your child to make amends for your shortcomings. Optimally, this should be a heartfelt conversation in which you discuss the situation and communicate your sorrow at having failed or wronged your child. After apologizing, make a commitment that you won’t repeat past mistakes that created the situation. Ask your child specifically for forgiveness, Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., advises on the Psychology Today website.

Right the wrong, if possible. For example, if you realize that you promised your child that you would do something and did not follow through, rectify the situation by keeping your promise.

Forgive yourself for the wrong and move forward. This may be the hardest step if you’ve been strangling yourself with guilt. Feeling guilty can be a habit that takes time and effort to break, states the Family Education website 2. Instead of focusing on the past, make a conscious decision to think about the future and focus your efforts and energy on positive parenting.


Parental guilt can surface from giving too much, giving too little, losing a temper, not spending enough time or making other mistakes. Parenthood doesn’t come with specific instructions, so every parent uses experiences and beliefs to formulate parenting principles, states the Illinois Early Learning Project. Guilt, used positively, may influence you to make necessary adjustments to improve parenting. Unresolved guilt may lead to ineffective and negative parenting that leads to children manipulating and not accepting responsibility.