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Don’t Blame Yourself For Your Children’s Mistakes

We all adore our children and view them as our prized possession worthy of being placed on a pedestal. We brag about them to our friends and stick our chest out when they do something wonderful…it’s just what we do. And why shouldn’t we?

Our children are on this earth because we brought them here, and for that, we feel a sense of pride and accomplishment each time we look at them. To heighten matters, our feelings only intensify when our children become adults who make their own choices. We filled with pride when they chose to go to a great college…but we feel depressed if they decide that college is not for them. We take their choices so personal, and we can’t help it.

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Well, this can be good and bad at the same time, unfortunately. On the one hand, it’s good because we feel love for them, and we give them love. However, on the other hand, although our children are now adults, we can’t help but feel guilt and remorse anytime they do something that makes us either embarrassed or ashamed.

Having feelings of remorse is normal…that is until those feelings turn to self-blame. That’s when things get ugly.

Blaming the victim

As parents, we tend to blame ourselves every time our kids do something that we feel goes against their nature…or rather something we wish they wouldn’t do. Most would argue that if your children are adults, you shouldn’t take their personal choices so seriously. Unfortunately, that advice means nothing to a parent who values their children—even if they are adults.

If we feel pride in our adult children’s achievements, then it makes perfect sense that we’d feel something if they mess up in life. Take for example if our children make a bad choice and are facing criminal charges, or if they have sex and contract a sexually transmitted disease. These are only a couple of things that might make us fall to our knees in pain because we know that there’s nothing we can do to save them.

When this happens, we can’t blame ourselves for their choices. If we have raised them to the best of our ability, and they make a bad decision, we can’t say to ourselves that we are the reason for the decision that they made.

We feel responsible for our children, even if they are adults, and can’t help but feel connected to them throughout their lives. We don’t separate from them just because they reach a certain age. This is why we must work so hard to fight the urge to blame ourselves each time they do something that we feel goes against what we have taught them throughout their lives.

We raise them to be honest and trustworthy…but that doesn’t mean we raised them to make perfect choices. Life has a way of testing every aspect of us all, and our children are no exception. You may have a perfectly honest 19-year-old who chooses to trust someone else who isn’t so honest, and as a result, gets caught up in something life-threatening. When these types of things occur, we parents must become stronger so that we can be the support that they need. We can’t spend our time blaming ourselves for choices that our kids make because it is both counterproductive and a waste of energy.

A time for learning

Just because our kids are adults doesn’t mean that they are done learning. What we as parents can’t teach them about life because they will learn that through their own experiences. This is a major fact that we must embrace so that we remember that their experiences, choices, and outcomes aren’t always the result of our rearing. Some things in life are truly outside of our control and we must accept that in order for us to live our lives without consistent guilt each time our young adults do something that goes outside of our expectation of their personal choices.

Remember, if you raise your children to the best of your ability and you know that you have provided them with all that you can to make them wise, honest, and filled with integrity, then you must let go of the guilt when they make bad choices in their lives. You can’t control each aspect of your child’s life once they grow up and go out into the world to explore it on their own. Just continue to be there for them when they need the advice that only a great parent can have for them…it’s all you can do.



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About Audra L.

Audra L. is an author, columnist and community activist who's dedicated to finding truth through research and effective communication. She received her degree in Public Policy and teaches Community Development, Public Speaking and Communications Law to youth throughout the nation. She is the recipient of over 23 awards and honors for her commitment to community outreach initiatives.

One comment

  1. Thanks so much for this article. I ultimately lost my daughter to cancer, after watching her battle opioid addiction for 13 years. It seems shame and blame are almost interchangeable at times. Both emotional and volatile. Your writing helped me see with a clearer eye.
    Thanks again.

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