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Parents: Are Your Regrets Fact or Fiction?


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.: Tue, Nov 16th 2010

sad familyIt could possibly be the most common reaction when parents look back on the lives of their children and think that they could’ve done more, they could’ve done better. Parents see their child’s challenges in life as their own failings in some way, but don’t seem to understand a very basic understanding that we all do the best we can at the time with what we have.

This isn’t to absolve responsibility but is meant to incline us toward self-forgiveness. The truth is, the thoughts that fly through our minds get confusing and they can become entirely convincing and believable, but it’s important to separate fact from fiction so we can break free from the thoughts that lead to greater stress, anxiety and depression.

Below is a list of facts I’ve heard from parents and the corresponding fiction below:

Fact

“I was depressed when my child was an infant and I wasn’t able to give him the attention he wanted.”

“My teenager is into drugs and alcohol.”

“When my child was young he didn’t do well in school and got into fights.”

Fiction

“I was a horrible mother or father.”

“I am a failure as a parent.”  

“I could have done more; I could have given more, what is wrong with me.”

The facts may be true, but that doesn’t mean you could have acted different. Maybe you were depressed at the time or working to make ends meet. Maybe, like many of us, you didn’t get the ultimate rule book for being a parent and so made some mistakes along the way. Maybe one minor thing that isn’t being taken into consideration is the enormous effects friends have on children’s lives.

The ultimate fact is, you couldn’t have done anything different because you weren’t aware of what you wished was different until after they happened.

It serves no purpose to blame or judge ourselves for a past under the delusion that hindsight could have been applied back then.

However, we can begin a process of healing; forgiving ourselves for any harm we may have caused our children knowing that we likely were suffering at that time as well. We are in need of compassion all around.

The facts are true, we can’t go back and change those, however, the barrage of judgments and self blame simply serve no beneficial purpose and are just not facts.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.  

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Workô program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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