Parent Coach Connie Hammer
Connie Hammer is the founder of The Progressive Parent, LLC, a parent-coaching organization offering extensive online and telephone support services. With a background as a school social worker for nearly two decades, Connie has worked with parents of special needs children, including many with ASDs. Her website is devoted exclusively to the concerns of parents who have children with autism.
“I believe in the power of helping parents uncover abilities in order to change possibilities.”
Learning to Pardon Yourself as a Parent
by Connie Hammer
Does parenting exist without guilt? Let’s face it, guilt comes with the territory – no matter how hard a parent tries, it is a difficult emotion to avoid completely. Are you nodding your head yes and identifying with this? If you do struggle with this emotion off and on, don’t feel bad – join the club and read on to explore ways of taming this unwelcome intruder.
There are numerous things that can trigger guilt in any parent. As a parent of a special needs child, you probably struggle with the choices you have had to make regarding your child’s care. Children on the autism spectrum usually need many therapies, and parents are often bombarded with too much information and too many choices. Then when the one they chose doesn’t work as expected, they may blame themselves, and the “shoulds” start being expressed. “I should have taken him to a different therapist.” Or “We should have known she needed a sensory diet sooner.”
Establishing a healthy way to manage these thoughts and emotions in order to maintain a sense of peace about your parenting is an important goal to aspire to. Taming your “guilt” monster is good self-care and will allow you to parent at your best. Whether you are currently coping with guilt, or you have a periodic yet ongoing relationship with it, it is possible to develop and maintain a mindset that will bring peace and harmony to your soul.
Here are a few tips that might help you alleviate, prevent or pardon yourself from GUILT:
Trust That You Are Not Alone:
You do not own the market on guilt. Guilt has been shared by every parent, moms AND dads, for centuries. Guilt is defined as an awareness of having done wrong accompanied by feelings of shame or regret. Your choices are neither right nor wrong; they are what you believed were best for you and your family at that time. They can always be altered.
Develop a Polite Yet Restrained Relationship with Guilt:
Because guilt seems to be a fact of life, it is best to find a constructive way to deal with it. Guilt can be persistent, like a nagging neighbor tapping at your door for days on end. It just wants to be recognized — so try inviting it in. Once you open the door, be polite but do not entertain it for too long. Simply acknowledge its presence, briefly listen to what it is telling you, name it for what it is and then graciously ask it to leave.
Surround Yourself with Supporters:
Be wary of the company you keep, and stay away from people who set off feelings of guilt. If a certain relationship is draining you by constantly triggering guilt or causing you to question your every parenting move, make a choice to eliminate this confidence snatcher, if possible. If dissolving the relationship is not possible, practice positive self-talk when around them and invent creative comebacks or find ways to avoid them.
Focus on effort not outcome:
Just as experts advise parents to highlight the effort their children are expending on a task and not the results when praising them, parents need to keep this in mind for themselves as well when they parent. All parents do the best they can with the tools they have at the time. The important thing is to notice and focus on what does work so it can be repeated, and to always strive for growth. Berating and blaming yourself is not productive. Instead, take the time to identify lessons learned, add them to your toolbox and grow from there. Remember, nothing is permanent, and everything is temporary; the sun will always shine again, and your guilt will also pass.
- Visit Connie’s website, where you can see her video and access her free e-course, Parenting a Child withAutism – 3 Secrets to Thrive, as well as a free weekly tip-style newsletter, The Spectrum.