Guilt and anxiety can completely destroy our well-being. Recently I've talked with two mothers who have been inundated with guilt and anxiety.
The first mother became aware that her daughter had been sexually molested by a relative 20 years ago. She is emotionally devastated as she imagines what her daughter has gone through. This mother blames herself. She believes that she should have been aware of what had occurred to her daughter. She jumps to the conclusion that because this bad thing happened to her daughter that she was a "bad mother".
The second mother has a history of depression and anxiety. She too feels like she has been a "bad mother", when she sees signs of anxiety and depression in her child. She is emotionally devastated when she hears her son think thoughts that she has thought and experience his anxieties and fears. She feels that if she were a better mother, her child would never have symptoms similar to hers.
Both mothers have expectations for themselves that are unrealistic and irrational, even though they seem logical. One mother has the expectation that nothing really bad will happen to her children, if she has been a good mother. The other mother has the unrealistic expectation that her children will not have some of her weaknesses, if she had been a good mother.
It is so important for mothers as well as all of us to remember the neurolinguistic tenet" "people do the best they can under their circumstances". These mothers have made the best choices available to them in raising their children. We always try to make the best choices available to us as parents, even if some of our choices do not turn out well. We must expect and accept that some of our choices will not always turn out well, even when we are trying to be the best parent possible.
Because bad things happen to children or because our children have difficulties in life, i t does not mean that we have been "bad parents". In spite of bad things happening to our children and in spite of our children's difficulties in coping with life, we have the right to think of ourselves as "good parents".
It is important and necessary for us to think of ourselves as "good parents" in order to be empathetic with our children, maintain boundaries of responsibility with our children and communicate our confidence in our children's abilities to manage their lives.
It is important to be able to learn to say and believe as parents as individuals coping with life's challenges, "I am good enough and that is good enough"!
If we want to change our identity as parents and our emotional experiences as parents, we must repetitively think of ourselves as "I am good enough and that is good enough"!