Do you find yourself looking at your children and feeling a tinge of sadness that you didn't make more of the time you had together while they were still young?
You're not alone. The majority of parents have a long list of regrets with the average parent regretting five things about their child's early years, according to a new survey.
The biggest regrets parents admit to are working too much, constantly worrying about the little things, not playing with their child more often, not going on more holidays, not capturing enough moments on camera and spending too much time away from them, according to a UK survey of 2,000 parents by Huggies Little Swimmers.
The survey also revealed more than three quarters of parents have at least one regret during their child's first few years while two thirds of parents admit they would do things differently if they could relive the period again. Seven out of ten parents admitted they took their youngster's childhood for granted, with more than two thirds saying it is easy to forget they won't be young forever.
"Lots of parents have regrets because it's very easy to look backwards", says Lauren Revell from Huggies Little Swimmers. "Things can seem simpler with hindsight, and it seems you definitely live and learn when you're a parent. Lots of parents say they have done things differently with their second child than their first - nobody knows straight away how to be a parent, so these regrets with your first-born are understandable."
The results of the survey reflect the experiences of Australian clinical psychologist, Jo Lamble, who says she comes across parents with regrets all too often. The most common ones are "working too much; not enjoying the early years of parenthood; and wishing they had not worried so much about money and chores" she says.
So what is regret and how should we deal with it?
"Regret is a negative cognitive/emotional state that involves blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been or wishing we could undo a previous choice that we made", explains Psychologist Melanie Greenberg PhD in Psychology Today. "Over short time periods, people are more likely to regret actions taken and mistakes made, whereas over long time periods, they are more likely to regret actions not taken, such as missed opportunities for love or working too hard and not spending enough time with family," she writes.
Lamble says it is possible to use regrets to bring about positive changes. "If you are worried that you are working too hard, reassess your priorities - it's not too late. If you have regrets over having not enjoyed the early years, make the most of today. If you regret not going on holidays or not having taken enough photos, start today. In other words, use your regrets to make changes in your mindset and your priorities. Try to focus on the here and now, instead of the past - it's a skill called mindfulness and it's so powerful."
Not dealing with regret can have long-term effects on our health and wellbeing according to Greenberg who suggests the following ways of coping:-
"Think about life as a journey. Everybody makes mistakes and these can be opportunities to learn important lessons about yourself, your ways of reacting, values, vulnerabilities, triggers, and also about other people and how to take better care of yourself."
"Consider the circumstances at the time that may have made it more difficult to make good choices, or the fact that you had limited knowledge at the time. Perhaps you had to make a quick decision under time pressure or had multiple stresses going on."
"If you get stuck blaming yourself and regretting past actions, this could turn into depression and damage your self-esteem. Find a way to forgive yourself and let it go."
Top 20 regrets of parents:
1. Working too much
2. Worrying too much about the little things that didn't really matter
3. Not playing with them more
4. Not going on more holidays
5. Not taking enough photos
6. Spending too much time away from then
7. Not filming enough events or milestones in their lives
8. Not taking them on 'big' holidays such as Disneyland
9. Not encouraging them to take up a/more hobbies
10. Not having a shared hobby
11. Not reading enough to them at bedtime
12. Spending too much time worrying about keeping the house clean
13. Not taking them swimming more often
14. Not letting them take part in messy activities more often
15. Not teaching them to swim earlier
16. Not seeing/being at some of the milestones in their life
17. Not making enough of Christmas/birthdays with them
18. Being too over-protective
19. Always waiting for the next milestone instead of enjoying the current one
20. Not enjoying days out more
Source: Huggies Little Swimmers.
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