Embracing Parental Guilt: A Journey Towards Self-Compassion with Dr. Diana Hill

Life’s Dirty Little Secrets Podcast Bonus: with Dr. Diana Hill & Dr.  Emma Waddington


Exploring Psychological Flexibility and Self-Compassion in the Face of Parenting Challenges


Parenting is a beautiful yet demanding journey filled with moments of joy, love, and seemingly insurmountable challenges. In the latest bonus episode of “Life’s Dirty Little Secrets,” our host Emma Waddington is joined by clinical psychologist Dr. Diana Hill to tackle one of the most pervasive yet under-discussed aspects of parenthood: parental guilt. Through an enriching conversation that incorporates Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dr. Hill provides practical strategies for managing guilt and fostering self-compassion.

The Nature of Parental Guilt

Parental guilt is an all-too-common experience among parents worldwide. Emma Waddington, a working parent and clinic owner based in Singapore, openly shares her struggles with managing her professional responsibilities and spending enough quality time with her three children, aged 13, 10, and 6. Her story resonates deeply with many listeners who juggle multiple roles and often feel like they are falling short in one aspect or another.

Dr. Diana Hill underscores that parental guilt frequently arises from our profound love and sense of responsibility towards our children. It’s a universal emotion that embodies a parent’s wish to provide the best for their offspring. However, without proper management, this guilt can lead to escalating feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness, which in turn can negatively impact both personal mental health and family dynamics.

The Role of Self-Compassion

Transitioning into a critical aspect of addressing parental guilt, Dr. Hill introduces the concept of self-compassion. This approach involves treating oneself with the same kindness and understanding that would readily be extended to a loved one in distress. Dr. Hill highlights the significance of integrating the inner child into therapy sessions, which allows parents to reconnect with their emotional triggers and past experiences often linked to their current feelings of inadequacy.

By tending to these past emotional wounds, parents can approach their guilt with empathy and foster a more compassionate connection with themselves and, subsequently, with their children. Emma acknowledges the challenge of being self-compassionate but recognizes its potential to be transformative.

Applying Psychological Flexibility

To provide a practical application of these concepts, Dr. Hill conducts a real play therapy session with Emma. The session is grounded in the principles of ACT, which prioritizes psychological flexibility—the capacity to stay present and engaged with one’s experiences, even in the face of distressing emotions. During this session, various ACT processes are employed, including acceptance, cognitive diffusion, and mindfulness.

Emma rates her current level of guilt at a five, describing the emotional and physical manifestations of her guilt, such as a knot in her throat and tightness in her chest. Dr. Hill leads Emma through an exercise of mindful awareness, encouraging her to observe her immediate environment and her present emotional state. This mindful observation is intended to create space for self-compassion and acceptance, rather than being consumed by guilt.

From Guilt to Values-Driven Action

The session then transitions into identifying and addressing deeper emotions underlying Emma’s guilt, such as sadness and anger. Dr. Hill encourages Emma to view these emotions as indicators of her deep love and commitment to her family rather than as failures. By connecting with her core values, Emma is guided to transform her guilt into constructive, values-driven actions.

A particularly impactful moment occurs when Dr. Hill introduces a compact intervention strategy using cards that represent different psychological processes, such as committed action and self-compassion. This practical tool prompts Emma to shift her perspective and adapt a more compassionate approach towards her struggles, aligning her actions with her love and dedication to her children.

The Power of Vulnerability in Therapy

Being a therapist herself, Emma reflects on the vulnerability required to assume the role of a client. The 20-minute session, though condensed, offers a valuable opportunity for in-depth, fast-paced therapeutic work. Emma marvels at the seamless integration of various ACT processes, appreciating how they interweave to address multifaceted experiences of guilt and frustration.

Dr. Hill emphasizes the importance of spending quality time experiencing sadness—often an uncomfortable but vital emotion for addressing deep-seated guilt, frustration, and disappointment. By allowing oneself to fully experience and process these emotions, parents can establish a more authentic connection with their children and themselves.


The insightful conversation between Emma Waddington and Dr. Diana Hill serves as a poignant reminder that parental guilt, while challenging, is navigable through self-compassion and psychological flexibility. By adopting these strategies and recognizing our vulnerabilities, we can transform guilt from a debilitating feeling into a powerful motivator for making values-driven choices.

In the various roles we encompass as parents and professionals, let’s remember to extend the same empathy and kindness to ourselves that we so readily offer to others. Together, we can create an environment where vulnerability is not only accepted but embraced, turning guilt into a driver for deeper connection and positive change.

If you are looking for help, please get in touch with our team of friendly therapists in Singapore who would be more than happy to help.