Breaking Down Parental Guilt: Triggers & Coping Strategies

Breaking Down Parental Guilt: Triggers & Coping Strategies

Parental guilt is a common and complex emotion that many parents experience. Whether it's questioning your parenting decisions, feeling overwhelmed by work-life balance, or comparing yourself with others, guilt can be a persistent companion on the parenting journey.

In this article, we will explore the triggers of parental guilt and provide practical coping strategies to help parents navigate this challenging emotional terrain.

Understanding parental guilt

According to Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University, parent guilt emerges when a parent finds themselves torn between their responsibilities as a parent and other competing demands, such as work or personal interests (Gupta, 2023).

The pressure to be a perfect parent, coupled with the constant stream of parenting advice and opinions from peers, experts or even your own parents and family members, can create an environment where guilt easily takes root. It is crucial for parents to recognise that experiencing guilt does not make them inadequate; rather, it is a natural part of the parenting experience.

Common triggers of parental guilt

  • Comparison trap

One of the primary triggers of parental guilt is the tendency to compare oneself with other parents. Social media exacerbates this by showcasing curated snippets of others' lives, fostering unrealistic expectations. For instance, a parent might scroll through their social media feed and come across posts from other parents depicting seemingly perfect family outings, well-behaved children, and beautifully organised homes. Parents may feel guilty for not measuring up to perceived standards of success or parenting excellence (Choosing Therapy, 2023).

  • Work-life balance

Juggling career responsibilities and parenting can lead to guilt on both fronts. Parents may feel torn between spending enough time with their children and excelling in their professional lives. Striking the right balance can be challenging, and the guilt associated with feeling inadequate in either domain can be rather overwhelming.

  • Discipline and boundaries

Every parent faces the dilemma of disciplining their children. Finding the right balance between being overly permissive and excessively rigid can pose a significant challenge, and parents may second-guess their decisions. Guilt can arise from fear of being too harsh or too permissive, contributing to doubts about their parenting abilities.

  • Self-care neglect

Parents often prioritise their children's well-being over their own, neglecting self-care in the process. Whether it's sacrificing sleep, personal time, or hobbies, the guilt of not doing enough for oneself can be a significant trigger. However, understanding that self-care is crucial for effective parenting is essential in overcoming this guilt.

Coping strategies for parental guilt

  • Practise mindfulness and self-compassion

Coping with parental guilt can be challenging, but practising mindfulness and self-compassion can offer valuable support. Mindfulness is a powerful tool for improving mental health, which involves being present in the moment without judgement. It helps you to have a deeper understanding of your experiences as a parent. You can also cultivate self-compassion, by acknowledging your feelings of guilt with kindness and acceptance, recognising that all parents make mistakes and that you are doing the best that you can with the resources and knowledge that you have. By treating yourself with the same empathy and understanding as you would a friend facing similar struggles, you allow yourself space to learn and grow along the journey of parenthood.

  • Set realistic expectations

Setting realistic expectations involves acknowledging that perfection is unattainable. Establish achievable goals to alleviate parental guilt and embrace mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth. For instance, aim for consistent effort and open communication, fostering a healthier parent-child relationship.

  • Seek support

Share your experiences and feelings with trusted friends, family members, or a support group. Opening up about your struggles can provide perspective and reassurance that you are not alone in your parenting journey. Seeking professional guidance through therapy or adult counselling in Singapore is also a valuable resource.

  • Learn from mistakes

Instead of dwelling on guilt, view mistakes as opportunities for growth. Reflect on the situation, identify what could have been done differently, and use these insights to inform future decisions. Parenting is a continuous learning process, and acknowledging imperfections is a sign of strength, not weakness.

  • Apologising

Apologising to your child when you've made a mistake is also an essential aspect of coping with parenting guilt, and helps in fostering a healthy parent-child relationship. Acknowledging errors demonstrates humility, teaches children about accountability, and reinforces the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions, and repairing relationships. Taking the initiative to apologise and working on making amends not only repairs any potential harm, but also sets a positive example for children on handling imperfections with grace and humility.


Parental guilt is a normal experience, but it doesn't have to dictate your parenting journey. Acknowledging the imperfections of parenting, practising self-compassion, and seeking support are essential steps toward breaking down parental guilt and creating a more fulfilling and resilient parenting experience. In some cases, consulting with a child psychologist may provide valuable insights and assistance in addressing both parental guilt and the overall well-being of your child.


Choosing Therapy. (2023, December 10). Am I a bad Parent? Challenging Parenting Guilt.

Gupta, S. (2023). Are you dealing with parent guilt? Verywell Mind.,and%20professor%20at%20Yeshiva%20University.