Woman holding her face in her hands
Woman holding her face in her hands

Lived experience: We don’t talk about it… parent guilt and shame

Parenting comes with a lot of responsibilities and ideals about how we raise our kids. We put expectations on ourselves and let others do the same.

Parenting comes with a lot of responsibilities and ideals about how we raise our kids. We put expectations on ourselves and let others do the same. Raising children with neurodevelopmental differences comes with beautiful gifts but also very unique challenges. To ensure our child’s wellbeing, we become relentless advocates, master negotiators, and seekers of knowledge. For many families, the balancing act is exhausting, and parents can end up burning out, telling themselves “I don’t know what else to do, I’m failing my child”.

But guess what? Despite all the support and love we give them, our children can still struggle with anxiety, learning disabilities, friendships, and everything in between. Some things are completely out of our control, and although we might know this deep inside, we still take on the guilt of not being able to wave adversity away.

You’ve probably been told that you don’t discipline your child enough or perhaps that you are too harsh. Your child might swear, hit, or have regular meltdowns, and you feel even more shame when it happens in public. All eyes are on you. Well-meaning family, friends, and even strangers give you their opinions on how to parent, so you keep second-guessing yourself.

Let’s remind ourselves that our neurodivergent kids are having a hard time, not giving us a hard time. They are navigating a world that hasn’t been designed for them, and they are doing it in the best way they can. There will be parents and strangers who will mutter under their breath and might tell their kids not to play with yours. That is on them. Give your energy to the parents and strangers who come to your side and ask if they can help. They won’t shame you or make you feel guilty for things you can’t control, that your child can’t control.

Protect yourself and avoid looking at aspirational imagery. Comparing your home and child to Instagram-curated families is a slippery slope to shame. Don’t do it. Your messy living room and loud mornings are your reality, and that of many more families, and that’s never going to be Insta-worthy. So what if your dining table is covered in four loads of clean washing and everyone is wearing mismatched socks? Just this week, you have taken your child to multiple therapy sessions, and swimming lessons, cooked seven dinners and breakfasts, made five lunches, read 9 bedtime stories, wiped endless tears, and dealt with a million worries. The laundry can wait, and the shame can go to the bottom of the pile. Better yet, remind yourself that guilt and shame have no place in your life.

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