Dealing with Feelings of Guilt as a Parent or Foster Carer

Dealing with Feelings of Guilt as a Parent or Foster Carer

Being a parent or guardian of a child is one of life’s greatest joys. But it also comes with responsibilities and challenges. The demands of juggling family, home, work, and personal needs can take a toll. Feelings of stress, inadequacy, and guilt can creep in.

You pour your heart into caring for your child. Yet there are still times you worry, “Am I doing enough?”. Know that you’re not alone – many parents and carers struggle with guilt. The key is learning how to manage those feelings of self-doubt.

Why Parents and Carers Can Feel Guilty

Parent or Foster Carer

Guilt as a parent or foster carer stems from the gap between your ideals and reality. The perfect parent myth sets unrealistic standards. In your head, you imagine a parent or carer who’s always patient, engaged, and has everything under control. But real life is messy. When you fall short of perfection, guilt can sink in.

Some common triggers include:

  • Losing your patience with a child’s difficult behaviour. You later feel bad about how you reacted.
  • Having to set boundaries or limits that upset your child in the moment. You doubt if you made the right call.
  • Not having enough time or energy to do everything you’d like as a parent or foster carer. You feel like you’re letting your child down.
  • Being stretched too thin. You worry your child isn’t getting the attention they deserve.
  • Having interests outside of your family. You may feel selfish or negligent for taking time for yourself.
  • Making mistakes. When something goes wrong, you blame yourself.

Foster carers in particular also deal with unique sources of guilt:

  • Not being able to ‘fix’ a foster child’s struggles or past trauma. You might feel responsible to heal their pain.
  • Having your own children already. You might feel like you are short-changing your birth child.
  • Going to work. You might feel guilty that you can’t dedicate every hour to caring for your foster child. The good news is, working and fostering is absolutely doable – read the guidelines here at
  • When a foster child moves on. You might feel like you failed them in some way.

Remember: The expectations you put on yourself do not reflect your worth or abilities as a parent or foster carer. Guilt can be eased when you have the proper perspective.

Why You Should Let Go of Guilt

Though the guilt feels real in the moment, those negative feelings often stem from an irrational place. It’s important to recognise when you’re being unfairly hard on yourself. Here are some truths to remember:

No parent or foster carer is perfect

Everyone makes mistakes sometimes or loses their patience. You’re only human. Don’t measure yourself against some fictional ideal parent or carer who never falters. Be compassionate with yourself when you fall short.

Good enough is good enough

You don’t have to be a super-parent or super-foster carer who does everything perfectly. As long as you provide care, nurturing, and stability, that’s good enough. Your child needs an imperfect but loving parent or guardian.

Self-care makes you a better parent or foster carer


Taking time to rest and recharge enables you to be more patient and engaged with your children. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break sometimes. If you’re a foster carer, take advantage of respite care. It’s available to help you.

Your needs matter too

Caring for yourself isn’t selfish – it’s necessary. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Prioritising your own health and happiness helps you stay grounded.

Not everything is in your control

If you’re a foster carer, a child moving on or other outcomes are not always up to you. Don’t take all the responsibility on yourself. Just do your best in the role you have, for as long as you have it.

You’re doing important work

Whether you’re raising your own children, parenting adopted kids or caring for foster children, you’re doing something meaningful and rewarding. Even on the hard days, recognise the incredible things you’re doing for these little humans in your care.

When the guilt creeps up, get perspective. Talk back to the unrealistic expectations behind those unfair feelings. As long as you are meeting your child’s needs and doing the best you can, that’s what truly matters – and what your children will remember fondly.

Coping Strategies for Guilt as a Parent or Foster Carer

perfect parent

It takes effort to let go of guilt, especially if you’ve let it go unchecked for too long. When doubts start creeping in, having healthy coping strategies helps you stay grounded. Here are some tips:

  • Talk it out: Voicing your feelings helps release guilt instead of bottling it up. Share openly with your partner, friends, or other parents and foster carers. Their reassurance can ease your mind.
  • Write it down: Journaling your thoughts helps you process emotions. List the unfair expectations behind your guilt to recognise what’s irrational.
  • Challenge inner critic thoughts: When your inner critic pipes up with negativity, talk back. Challenge thoughts like “I’m a bad mum/dad/foster carer” with gentler truths like “I’m only human and I’m doing my best.”
  • Practice self-care: Do at least one thing daily that refills your cup, whether it’s exercising, talking to a friend, or enjoying a hobby. Taking time for yourself keeps the guilt at bay.
  • Set boundaries: Learn to say no and not feel bad about it. If taking on an extra responsibility will stretch you too thin, politely decline. Protecting your time and energy is key.
  • Focus on the positives: When you start doubting yourself, bring to mind all the ways you are a caring, engaged parent or carer. Celebrate your victories.
  • Ask for help: Have your partner or parent take the kids so you can take a timeout. Or outsource chores you don’t have bandwidth for, like a weekly deep house cleaning. Support makes all the difference.
  • Let go of the small stuff: Don’t waste energy feeling guilty over little things like your child having too much screen time one day or one too many biscuits after dinner one weekend. They’re one-offs – choose your battles.

At the end of the day, know this: you are enough. Your children don’t need a perfect parent or carer – just one who provides stability, care, and nurturing. Guilt may creep up, but don’t let it steal your joy. Use healthy coping strategies to silence your inner critic. You’re already doing great.