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Parent Guilt Part 4: "What to do when you don't know what to do"

So far in this series I have talked about my own experiences and the various parenting challenges that we may all encounter which result in a whopping dose of guilt. I am not a parenting expert, I just want to lay that out there – my role here is to coach and support parents through their journeys and give them the tools and exploration they may need to help them through the harder or trickier times. So this article is just that, a quick and hopefully helpful overview of what to do what you don’t know what to do!


We are all individual human beings with unique personalities, behaviour, neurological make up and brain chemical concoctions, and our children are no different. We are raising little (or big) humans who will be just like us one day (out in the world, making their way and having their own lives). This seems all rather daunting when you really think about it especially as we are probably the biggest influence on their development, but the biggest fact that we often forget is that nobody knows how to parent your child better than you. You know the signs to look for, the routines, the things they like, what makes them sad, what makes them excited and you know how to love them no matter what.



But every now and then, something might come along that you need help with. Perhaps that help could come from a friend or family member, or from a professional who can guide you, diagnose a problem, assist or advise you. However you choose to seek support, you should never feel guilty about it. By getting help, you’re acknowledging there might be a problem you can’t overcome alone, and you’re doing what’s best for you and your family. It could be a tough experience and one that takes a long time, but you have done the best thing and what’s more, you knew it was the best thing to do.


For those moments where the Lego is flying, the crocodile tears are in full flow, the bedroom door is shut and you feel like you are talking to the wood instead of your child, it feels all consuming. The times I have been trying to talk to my daughter whilst she is giving me the silent treatment (stubborn is an understatement) are countless, and each time I feel overwhelmed, confused, frustrated and guilty. The physical and emotional effect that has afterwards on us builds up and I have regularly chastised myself for not handling the situation and myself better.


If, like me, you sometimes find the battles too hard or you don’t know what you are doing in the heat of the moment, there are a few helpful tips which could help…


  • Step away and breathe. Move, change room, close your eyes, stop the moment and take deep breaths. This will allow to try and compose, review, regroup and think about your next move going forward. Try breathing in for 5 seconds, holding the breath for 5 and then releasing your breath for 10 seconds (and repeat). Breathing is the only part of the nervous system we can control and so it is hugely powerful when we need to down regulate our stress response.

  • Stop comparing. Following that perfect parent on Instagram where all is rosy, and the kids are successful and utterly cherub-like? Watching the mum or dad at the school gate who looks like they have it all together picking up their happy child? How is that serving you? Not well, right? Stop it. You don’t know what is happening behind a photo, video, in their home or offline. This is your parenting journey - everyone’s is different and full of highs, lows, beauty, sadness, happiness and frustration. You do you.

  • Talk nicely to yourself. You might not know what you are doing right now, but that is ok! Winging it and admitting you didn’t know if what you did was the right thing to do is more than ok! Furthermore, seeing you work out these dilemmas and recovering from mistakes is an incredible lesson for your children to see. Go easy on yourself, you don’t deserve a harsh critic for you trying to do your best.

  • Speak to another parent. Not that Instagram parent or the one that continuously shows their kids awards/grades/beautiful/how popular they are to everyone… the friend or parent who keeps it real and will understand your struggles. Sharing the realities of parenthood and the truth goes a long way to healing and to reassure you that truly, none of us know what we are doing!

Like all things, doing these regularly with practice will help longer term with tolerance and stress levels, but if you think you could do with some space to talk it out and find a way forward, just get in touch with me and we can work on it together.


Additional Resources

If you are trying to cope through the early years and you would like to seek specific help there is a lot of information on the NSPCC website which could help, and the charity operates a helpline for parents as well as Childline for kids – there are trained practitioners there to offer support, advice, guidance and signposting for parents or carers with any queries, problems or worries about their own kids or anyone else’s. Baby parenting tips | NSPCC

The NSPCC helpline is available to parents and carers who need any advice, support or signposting, as well as anyone with concerns about the wellbeing of a child. Anyone can phone the helpline on 0808 8005000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk

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