Helping to Sooth Guilt

Samantha had lived in a toxic marriage. Her children grew up in that marriage. Samantha felt sorry that her children had to live in a home with yelling, alcohol, violence, and threats. She was able to leave the marriage, but only after the children left the home.  Samantha felt that her kids suffered due to the person she chose to marry. She felt it was unfair that they suffered from her choice. Now that she was on her own, she was more financially stable. She also had more time on her hands.

Samantha felt it was necessary to make up for the terrible childhood she felt her children had. She felt tremendous guilt for the chaos in their home. Samantha tried to make up for her children’s childhood by giving them excessive amounts of money and volunteering excessive time to take care of her children’s problems.

There is nothing wrong with giving time and money to adult children. What is wrong, is doing it out of guilt. When Samantha made decisions about how much money or time to spend, her decisions were clouded by guilt. Samantha was more interested in not feeling guilty, than she was for the welfare of her children. The effect of Samantha’s clouded decisions was that her children became emotionally crippled. They were not given the opportunity to fail, when failure was a required teacher. Samantha also suffered. She was not able to save money for her retirement. She had difficulty maintaining her job, because of time obligations with her adult children.

When we take the time to work through our own emotions, without using other people as the mechanism to resolve them, we make better decisions. Samantha decided to change the way she approached helping her children. She took some time to herself to resolve the feelings of guilt. She started asking herself, “am I offering this time and money to help my children, or am I offering it so I don’t feel guilty.” When Samantha stopped acting out of guilt, she found that she could easily make appropriate decisions. Having learned from the “School of Hard Knocks” herself, she was able to recognize when it was the best time to allow her children to fail and when she should step in and be of service to them.