Ask the therapist: Are you guilt-tripped by your parents?

E8A2GN Psychology of Guilt
E8A2GN Psychology of Guilt

By Dr Annette Schonder

Published: Thu 28 Jan 2021, 3:07 PM

My parents, who live in India, often guilt-trip me about not being around them when they’re ageing and more vulnerable. It makes me feel as though I’m irresponsible. I do make it a point to check on them every now and then, and would visit them often before Covid halted travel. How do I tackle it? — Name Withheld

Dear Writer, it is hard when family members live far from each other, and I understand how uncomfortable you must feel being guilt-tripped by your ageing parents. I wonder if they guilt-tripped you when you were still visiting on a regular basis. We all have to keep in mind that Covid-19 has impacted us on all levels, including our freedom to travel as we please. Maybe you could remind you parents that you want to see them, but you can’t under the current circumstances.

I also suggest that you check on them in more regular intervals. This will establish a regular pattern of contact rather than them not knowing when you will touch base again.

As an adult, you have chosen to move to Dubai, and I am certain you had compelling reasons to do this. On the other hand, your parents have the expectation that you should be nearby to look after them. This is a problem so many families face, even if they live in the same neighbourhood. The question is how to solve this problem.

Guilting the adult children is certainly not a productive approach. I suggest that you and your parents have a conversation about what daily care needs they have. What are their fears and concerns and how can they be addressed? What is the plan if there is a medical emergency? What assistance can community members offer? Your parents are not alone in India.

Lastly, I would also like to suggest that when you are being guilt- tripped, let your parents know, in a loving way, how they are making you feel right in that moment. Maybe they will realise how uncomfortable that makes you feel and stop guilting you.

Dr. Annette is an integrated therapist at

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