For several years, I was stuck in depression and burnout, leaving me regularly on edge and rigid about almost everything. Sadly, my rough edges came most out with the people I least wanted to hurt, my partner and kids. I couldn’t shake off the feeling of guilt.

Over time I came to see the destructive loop I was stuck in. It’s one of those examples of mindfulness not always bringing happiness and joy. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The more aware I became of my being so on edge and reaching the point of yelling, the more guilt and shame I felt. This shame caused me to shut down and emotionally distance myself from my kids, entrenching a very harmful pattern for all of us.

If I was on edge and yelled in the morning, it could send me into shutdown for the rest of the day. Maybe the next one too. The kids would bounce back and move on but I’d remain stuck.

They would be laughing and playing while I wanted to crawl into a hole. I wanted to hide away my edginess and rigidity. It felt like I had a monster inside that I could not always control. I was deeply ashamed and wanted to protect my kids by keeping them away from me. Not great!

I went to one of the few support systems I had for these rough moments at the time, books. In Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids Workbook, Dr. Laura Markham shared a beautiful Hawaiian meditation poem for just these kinds of difficult moments parents face when they love their kids and also mess up.

The poem, HO’OPONOPONO, reads:

I’m sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.

Dr. Laura Markham included it in her book for the exact reason I needed it. She saw and worked with other parents who also felt terrible about their behaviors with their kids at times.

This knowledge was powerful. It let me know not only was I not alone in my struggles but that parents being concerned about their own behaviors was so prevalent that this influential parenting expert included it in her book.  

I started using this poem as I needed it (which was daily at the time). When I said or did something I felt guilty about or ashamed of I’d imagine my child in my mind’s eye. It may have been a tender moment when I was holding them, loving them, playing with them, or being silly. I would imagine their face, their eyes, their body language, and feel their presence.

Then I’d repeat the poem as if I was saying it aloud to them in my imagination.

“I’m sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.”

I would repeat it again and again, slowly and deliberately. Giving each phrase space and time to settle over my child and myself.

“I’m sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you”

I was truly sorry so I could say the poem with genuine intention and meaning.  

The poem began to help me stay open to my feelings of guilt and remorse without shame hijacking me and shutting me down. It allowed me to make amends to my children internally and remain more emotionally present. 

After I did something I felt bad about, it took a lot of practice but over time with this and other self-compassion practices, I shut down less and less. Eventually, I could bounce back, and my kids and I would make appropriate apologies to them in real life as well. I would apologize to them when I was ready and could say it without needing anything in return.

Thought for the day:

Guilt and remorse are helpful emotions that support us in changing behaviors that no longer serve us. Shame on the other hand shuts us down in an effort to keep people at a distance and not let them see us at our worst. If shame takes over, it can cause more hurt to the ones we love, HO’OPONOPONO offers a way to stay in guilt and remorse, stay close to the ones we love, make amends, and then move on. In this way, we are likely to also make different and better choices in the future as well.

~Michelle

Michelle Puster M.Ed.

Mindfulness Informed Professional

Helping burned out parents find inner calm and compassion

440 Cobia Drive Suite 1301

Katy, TX 77494

832.361.1547