Parental Guilt


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    • #195444

      I’m struggling with a lot of guilt about my parenting lately. I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD since I was 30 years old (I’m 45 now) and I’ve struggled with guilt as long as I can remember. Growing up with undiagnosed ADHD was often difficult and as a result my relationship with my father suffered. My dad was ‘old school’ and was a very stern, disciplinarian. My dad often isolated himself from us as kids and was often focused on himself and his own pursuits. He was a great provider for our family but was definitely more focused on our physical needs over our emotional needs. As I look back on his behaviors I can tell that he very likely has ADHD himself (can never sit still and always needs to be doing something, hyperfocuses on tasks and gets agitated when interrupted, emotional dysregulation, reacts impulsively) and that is problem. I am horrified that I parent the same way that he does. I’m often emotionally disconnected and get hyperfocused on whatever I’m doing, I have intense rejection dysphoria and react negatively anytime I get pushback from my kids, and honestly I just come off as mean to them a lot of the time. I really don’t intend on being that way. Most of the time I don’t hear the way I sound until after my wife (who gets very angry with me about it) points out how I’m being. Even then I am resistant to hearing it because I hate hearing that I am that guy.

      One of the worst things is that I’m a master’s level counselor by trade. I’ve worked as a family based therapist and BSC and have taught parenting skills to multiple parents and worked with hundreds of kids on managing their ADHD. I’ve got all the knowledge in the world on what I need to do but I can’t seem to implement it. I start off level headed, use clear, controlled, positive speech when confronting a problem but very rapidly dissolve into being agitated and I start shouting or arguing. My kids don’t trust me because they don’t know when I am going to fly off of the handle and my wife resents me because I won’t/can’t seem to change. I don’t act that way with her at all. I saw how my dad acted towards my mom (very much how I act towards my kids now) and told myself long ago I would not do that to my wife. My shame is that this is how I am with my kids. I hate that I act this way and I feel so much shame because of it. I desperately want to be a better father and husband. Is there anyone out there in the same place as me? Have any of you been able to effectively make the changes needed? I want a good relationship with my kids and want my wife to feel like she can trust me. Thanks for listening.

    • #195540

      First, Share the condition with your wife and also about the solution. After that consult a professional neurologist for medication. Even you can start meditation and yoga. But, best is to share the condition with your family.

    • #195760

      Just because you’re a counsellor doesn’t mean that you don’t have your own issues to deal with. I’m basically in the same boat as your wife and I see a lot of parallels here.

      For one thing, your post is a lot more focused on YOUR feelings about your behaviour than on how your wife and kids must feel. You even say that you’re resistant to hearing from your wife that you’re being “that guy”. But how can your behaviour ever change if you’re still somehow justifying it to yourself, or you’re not willing to hear some hard truths about how you’re making other people feel? Who is the victim here? I guarantee that your wife and kids are feeling just as terrible as you are, with the added stress of being helpless to change anything.

      So the first step I would take is to sit down with your whole family and acknowledge the things that you’ve done and said that are cruel and inappropriate. Ask your kids how your behaviour has made them feel, listen and apologize. Let them know that how you’re behaving is wrong and give them permission to tell you when you’ve hurt their feelings. Make a commitment to all of them to change and give them permission to hold you accountable. Don’t use your shame as a weapon – your kids and wife aren’t responsible for your shame, and shouldn’t feel like somehow you’re the victim because you’re beating yourself up.

      I think a lot of people use shame as a defence mechanism. Whenever my husband uses shame, it makes me feel like I have to back down, or that somehow his behaviour makes HIM feel worse than it makes ME feel. That’s just not true, and it’s a clever way for an aggressor to turn themselves into the victim.

      So as hard as it may be, accept that you are the aggressor in this situation and you are doing damage. Punishing yourself with shame doesn’t help anything, and may actually contribute to you feeling like you’ve already paid the price for your behaviour and don’t have to make any amends to others.

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