Parents Don't Have To Be Guilty


October 08, 1991|By Barbara Turk, M.S.

You feel guilty about the way your kid was raised. Maybe you neglected him/her, or were abusive. The result is that your grown kid isn't handling things too well. You're trying to make up for your mistakes, be the good parent. So, you give him money when he says he needs it or, maybe, help him out of jams (even when he's wrong).

That's not good parenting, that's guilt reduction.

* It's called that because each time you bail him out, redemption seems closer (though, instead, you're probably setting yourself up for lifetime blackmail!).

* And it's not good parenting, because bailing him out teaches him to lean on you instead of learning to handle his life in healthy ways.

Well, you don't want to be destructive. What do you do?

* First, accept guilt as part of the past, a past that cannot be changed.

* Then recognize that in the present you can be the good parent by acting in the best interest of your child. That sometimes means denying his requests and suggesting healthy alternatives, for example: "I won't give you more money, I'll help you find a job."

* As you both feel comfortable, discuss your past mistakes. State that you love him and now intend to do right by him, even when that means saying no.

Remember, being the good parent will not only help your child (if he will let it), it will help you come to peace with your guilt of the past.

F: Barbara Turk is a psychotherapist in private practice.

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