Guilt: Why can’t I fix my broken child?

I get it, I understand the feeling, but it still never ceases to amaze me when parents feel guilty and that they have failed when they can’t “fix” their kids.  When the children need more care than the parents can provide, when the children run away, when the children end up in a residential treatment center, the psych hospital, even jail – the parents feel guilt.  Why couldn’t I fix my child?  They blame themselves.

But taking a step back and looking at the situation from a more objective point of view, the statement seems ludicrous.  (no offense)  Do we get angry at our plumber neighbor because he couldn’t perform an emergency appendectomy for us and fix us?  No, of course not!  That just seems silly!  Well….. these kids are very broken.  If groups of professionals can’t do it, with their decade of training and experiences…. then how can we expect that we as “parents” can perform the miracle?

I recently read a post from a mom whose daughter at 17 just went off to RTC.  The mom wrote that she was starting to feel excited about the future, she could see that their relationship with their daughter could be more positive now that she was outside the home, she knew the daughter was safe and being taken care of, her needs were being addressed, and she was starting to feel joy in looking at the future again.  In other circles that mom would be crucified for not loving her daughter.  But we know differently.  This mother gave everything she had to her daughter, gave every opportunity she could for healing. It wasn’t enough.  Not through any fault of the mom or the parents, but because the child’s needs were so great.  It was time to put the child in more hands-on charge of the professionals.

The fact that this mom could so soon start to feel positive about her future relationship with that daughter, could see the positive changes in their lives, made me well up with tears with happiness for her.  Yes, I thought.  Yes.  No guilt.  She did nothing wrong.  She was not a failure in any way, shape or form!  Feeling relief that the days of having to watch a child 24/7, living in fear of what the child might try to do next, worrying about what trouble the child might get into, unburdening yourself from those feelings is not wrong.  Far from it.  Accepting the fact that “it is what it is”, and being able to move forward with your life, that is healing within yourself.  That also is a lesson to your child, whether they ever learn it or not.

No guilt.  And stop this ridiculous expectation that you should be able to fix a very broken child.  Maybe we can, maybe we can’t.  All we can do is do our best and provide all the opportunities possible and bring in every resource we can find.  But that’s where our responsibility ends.  Our responsibility is not to “fix” the child.  There’s no guarantee that’s possible at all.  Our responsibility is to love with everything we have, give with everything we got, and never give up on them.  Sometimes it’s enough.  Sometimes it’s enough – but we don’t know it til 10-20 years down the road.  Either way – no guilt.


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