The minute we learn we’re about to start a family the guilt starts. If it isn’t about what we eat while we’re pregnant, it’s what we do in labor and then it’s how we feed our kids. Then we move on to whether we’re going to pick the right school and feel guilty when our friends or relatives judge our decisions. Seemingly the guilt is never ending.
Guilt can be a wake-up call that we need to pay attention to our behavior or guilt can hold us up as we hang on to the feeling for way too long. So what’s the cure for this universal guilt we all feel?
Teaching our children can help us understand ourselves. In order to help your kids understand what guilt is and what to do about it requires parents to look directly in the mirror. The question parents need to ask themselves is, “When you have felt guilty what did you do about it?”
Guilt is when you know you did something wrong. It could be not following a rule or hurting someone’s feelings by what you said or did. Feeling responsibility for something that does not feel right to you.
Identify if your guilt is realistic or unrealistic. Kids are not as familiar with guilt as adults are. They do not know what they are feeling a lot of the time, so it is up to parents to help them identify guilt.
Once you know that guilt is legitimate, teach your kids how to apologize. Saying, “I’m sorry” does not mean you are. Tell your kids NOT TO SAY THEY ARE SORRY, but say instead that they WILL NEVER DO IT AGAIN.
Finally, give your children something to do with their bodies to get rid of those guilty feelings. Rubbing their palms past each other in a brushing fashion can give a simple ‘brush it off’ signal. Then remind your kids whenever they can to make amends so that their guilt will be replaced with confidence to work through their mistakes.
This is just one more thought in our continuing discussion about how to teach emotional education to our kids.
Don’t hesitate to share your success when teaching your kids about feelings,