Adults Gone Bad · Raising Adult Children

How to forgive yourself when your child doesn’t turn out the way you hoped

Spread the love
adult child didn't turn out the way this parent hoped.

A Godfather’s Perspective

Perfect parents don’t exist. There I said it.

I raised two of my own children and two of my siblings. I began parenting my siblings when I was 18 years old and I was the only father they knew. My own children didn’t come along until many years later.

As a Godfather, I tried to guide my kids towards success, but I often felt like I failed. One of the reasons why I and many other parents have guilt is that our expectations are too high. When they don’t turn out the way we had hoped, we think it reflects on us.

My Family

My siblings – we’ll call them Lyle and Layla – did not exactly turn out the way I expected. Lyle is a heavy smoker and drinker, and I never smoked in front of him. From the time they were about six, I made it clear that smoking was not good for them.

Layla is still struggling to find a decent job so she can move out of her seedy apartment in a bad neighbourhood. Moving in with roommates was the goal.  She became pregnant at a young age and ended up having an abortion without telling us.

I tried hard to be a good role model; never smoking or drinking in front of them. They never saw my girlfriend until I announced that I was getting married and by then they were grown.

Looking back, I wonder if the reason they ended up pulling away from me was that I wasn’t open enough with them about how I felt, what I was going through and that I cared very much for them. Of course, if the opposite had happened and I had been more of a friend or peer to them, I’d probably blame myself for being too lenient and less of a father figure. As parents, we are our harshest judge and we just can’t win, can we?

Letting Go of Guilt Over Your Adult Child

My mistake was that I was trying to mould them as if I was making a piece of art or a portrait. I failed, at my young age, to realize that they were each individuals with their own minds and desires for their lives. I know that there are things I could have done better, but I am moving past the guilt.

The fact is, both of them are the creators of their own destiny and they own their mistakes. They need to overcome the challenges that come their way but it’s okay if they fail. I understand that the parenting I did was not perfect, but it did the job. The reason why Lyle and Layla are where they are now is a result of their decisions. Both Lyle and Layla are now adults living on their own, working, and earning money. I can no longer hold myself accountable for what they choose to do and how they choose to behave as adults.

Lyle smokes and drinks every day and I feel bad for him, but he could certainly quit if he decided he wanted to become a non-smoker. The decisions that Layla makes may not be the ones I would make, but she needs to decide what she wants from her life, I can’t tell her how to live.

Don’t beat yourself up when your child doesn’t turn out the way you hoped

The path to becoming guilt-free is not easy because you’re battling a very strong enemy; the enemy is you. Doubt and guilt cling to you, no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

On one of my visits to Lyle and Layla, I chatted with them both about the guilt I was feeling. After I stayed with each of them for a few days, something clicked. I began to truly understand that everything they do and the way they are now has nothing to do with the way I parented them.

What I did to get rid of guilt

Before I went to talk with them, I had to do many things to find inner peace. Here are three of the best tips I would like to share with other guilt-ridden parents

Understand expectations

Your expectations for your children play a large role in whether you feel you did your job. While it is always good to expect them to do their best, setting the bar impossibly high is setting you both up for disappointment.

Understand the guilt

I had an easier time getting rid of my guilt when I pinpointed the source. What things was I actually feeling guilty about? the things that pop into my head first when I think of my disappointment? For me, it was Lyle’s smoking and drinking habits, and Layla’s abortion. Spend some time reflecting on what you think you did wrong that brought about these things. What could you have done that would guarantee a different result? I am pretty sure there is not much that you can point to that was a direct cause for how they act in their lives now.

 Ask for forgiveness

This might seem strange, but apologize. Even if you cannot point to the actual mistakes you made but apologizing to your kids can have a huge effect on them and you. Be careful when you apologize that you don’t tie it to your disappointment in them. Don’t say I should have been around more, or you wouldn’t be such a jerk – it won’t have the desired effect!

I felt a huge load off my shoulders after I asked Lyle and Layla if they could forgive me for the mistakes I made when raising them. I told them I did the best I could at the time, but I wished I could have done better. Although they insisted they had nothing to forgive, I still felt better after I asked.

Being a parent after they grow up

You never stop being a parent to your children. Layla and Lyle always speak to me on the phone about things that happen in their life, I am happy to be a part of their life and be a guiding hand when they need it.

Anonymous Guest Blogger is the Godfather of Lyle and Layla, he took care of them until they were in their twenties. he is now the father of two of his own children and he continues to work on ridding himself of guilt!

Don’t forget to check out our Resources page for some great information!

2 thoughts on “How to forgive yourself when your child doesn’t turn out the way you hoped

  1. I have bi polar since I was 16 years old my parents were blind to it and couldn’t admit there was something wrong with me….I was hospitalized.many times they never came to see me

    1. I’m so sorry to hear this Marilyn, sometimes it is difficult for people to admit the hard stuff to themselves. I hope you have found more acceptance since then.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *