This is a newsletter blurb that I picked up where I used to work:
“Regardless of cause, history or contributing factors, feeling guilty about your past role in the development of your child’s problem behavior will risk sabotaging your parenting roles. For a more focused relationship with your child: 1) Recognize guilt as negative, self-talk that is normal, but that can be managed or stopped, 2) Acknowledge that a desire for relief from guilt places you at risk for changing the rules, boundaries, and standards that you want followed. 3) Try to act more consistently and proactively, feel better about tough choices, so that you can be less encumbered by what happened in the past.”
What is negative self-talk? It’s when your son gets arrested for burglary and you say you just didn’t raise him right. You blame yourself, so you bail him out.
My guilt around Annie was very great, and in seeking to relieve myself of it I have too often spoiled her, not followed through on adherence to consequences, and cushioned the falls that might have taught her valuable life lessons.
I’m learning to consider tough choices now instead of easy ones. And I’m letting go of my guilt around my past behavior. But it’s a well-worn groove in my character, and I’ll need to work very hard to let go of it completely.
Steps Eight and Nine—the apology steps—provide an opportunity to learn the difference between what is and is not our responsibility and to take a more realistic look at the effects of our actions. In my case, my sense of responsibility was inflated. So when I crossed the line and tried to fix her, to relieve my anxiety, I messed up. In my desperation to be feel better, I became the consummate enabler. I felt I had to punish myself because my daughter’s substance use disorder must have been my fault. But I don’t feel that way anymore. I’ve learned to let go. It’s a journey to freedom that parents will make in their own way and at their own pace.
God Bless us All!