How to Process Parent Guilt… and Make Meaningful Amends With Your Teen

by | Feb 24, 2024 | Parenting | 0 comments

What happens when you say something to your teen that you regret? Or, when you do something that results in your teen feeling hurt?  Do you pretend it didn’t happen? Punish yourself with parent guilt? Or, do you see your mistake as a valuable opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your teen and model how she can handle mistakes and make amends? 

The truth is, saying or doing the so-called “wrong thing” can actually enhance your relationship with your teen and teach her valuable life skills.   When you leave an interaction with your teen feeling bad about something you said or did, it’s time to follow these six steps to repair, rebuild, and model vulnerability, responsibility, and forgiveness. 

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  1. Practice self-compassion.  Acknowledge and accept how you feel and remind yourself that you are human, which means you too make mistakes.  Soften your body and mind with a few deep breaths to bring about a sense of calm, which will help you in step two.
  2. Admit your mistake. When you are calm, approach your teen and tell her you said the wrong thing or acted without thinking about the consequences. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with your teen and share your feelings. This demonstrates to your teen how to take responsibility for actions, which is a skill she can use in the future. 
  3. Apologize.  After you’ve taken responsibility for your actions or words, offer a heartfelt apology.  Be clear about what you are sorry for and acknowledge how it made your teen feel.  As you offer an apology to your teen you are also giving her a framework for how she can apologize to others (including you.) 
  4. Ask your teen what she needs.  Find out if she would like time and space or if she’d like to share her thoughts and feelings.   If and when your teen is ready to share, listen with a willingness to understand her perspective.  Show you are listening by saying, “I hear you saying.…. Is that right?” Listening in this way shows your teen you are willing to understand.  It gives her the experience of being heard, which strengthens lines of communication and enhances your overall relationship. 
  5. Ask for forgiveness.  When the time is right, ask your teen if she is ready to forgive you.  Reiterate your apology and tell her what forgiving you would mean to you.  Since many teens have not thought much about forgiveness, take this time to explore the meaning and practice of forgiveness and how it can alleviate parent guilt.
  6. Talk about your next steps.  Share ideas for how a similar situation might be handled differently in the future.  Talk about the changes you want to make. This may include being more mindful of your words or noticing when your feelings are running high and taking a step back before saying or doing something out of anger or upset. Ask your teen for ideas.  Together, come up with tools and strategies to use for things including emotional regulation, conflict resolution, and handling mistakes, reducing parent guilt.

Owning a mistake and making amends can be uncomfortable but doing so will promote trust, understanding, openness, and peace.  You can also feel good about showing your teen skills she can use when she says or does the wrong thing.  


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