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Repairing when you blew it – apologizing to your kids, why it’s important, how it supports and encourages healing.

June 3, 2024

Written by Tina Hamilton, The Healing Parent

Would you apologize to your children if you messed up? 

Years ago, I would have said no. I was of the mind that to apologize to a child would mean that they would begin to question my authority. 

Besides, I don’t remember adults ever apologizing to me when I was a child.

Consider for a moment, however, what it would feel like to have received an apology from a parent–for a parent to have said, “I was out of line and said some hurtful things. You don’t deserve that, and I am so sorry.”

As a parent of young children (or even teenagers), there are going to be moments when you don’t show up as your best self. Moments when the frustration and anger get the better of you, and you snap, perhaps saying something you don’t mean or being overly aggressive. 

After these moments–or even during them–you may have an overwhelming sense of guilt. You may have thoughts such as:

“I am a horrible parent.”

“I am ruining my children.”

The guilt and shame that you feel when you yell at your child is natural, however, it can cause you to ignore an important part of parenting:

The Repair

Here’s the thing. You are human. You are capable of feeling a full spectrum of human emotions, and can sometimes become so overcome with an emotion, that you forget that your children are tiny humans, new to this world.

You are the adult with more experience. I won’t tell you that you should know and act better, because the truth is that your overwhelming emotions are an indicator that something is not in alignment with your values or your desires. 

Sometimes your emotions get the best of you, and that’s OK.

When this does happen, though, it is important to own up to your mistake. Apologizing to your child sets an example. You show your children that even adults make mistakes–that you are human and can sometimes react without thinking, and cause hurt or pain in another. 

By apologizing, you demonstrate to your child the importance of owning your mistake and making amends. You also show your child how to appropriately apologize for hurting someone else, an important life skill. 

Finally, the follow-thru allows your child to observe change and growth in others, and they will learn to expect this from future partners and friends. 

Before we get into how to make a repair with your child after an incident, let’s first decide what is not an apology.

An apology is not:

Ignoring the need for an apology.

It is a common leftover belief from earlier generations that adults never apologize to children. The belief that adults are always right or know better than children fuels this idea and can lead you to believe that you don’t owe your children an apology.


The first experience children have with gaslighting often comes from the adults around them. When a child recalls a moment that may or may not have happened the way they remember, it is important to validate their experience, rather than tell them that the way they remember it happening is inaccurate. 

“I’m sorry, but …”

This is not an apology, this is an excuse. Take ownership over your response to a stimulus. Your child may have broken your favorite vase or lied about sleeping at a friend’s house before you lost your cool, but their behavior doesn’t dictate your reaction.

Silent treatment.

Similar to ignoring the need for an apology, the silent treatment is avoiding talking about the situation or even addressing your child for an extended period of time. 

So how do you make a proper apology?

An apology has four components:

Own your mistakes.

Admit you messed up and are working to do better. 


Sit with your child. Acknowledge their feelings. Let them be seen. 

“I’m sorry I hurt you.”

Acknowledge the impact you had, even if it was unintended.


Take time to consider your behavior and what emotions might have been at the root of your reaction. 

An apology to a younger child might sound like this:

“I was having big feelings earlier and said/did some things that I did not mean (ownership). That was probably really scary for you (reconnect/validation). I am sorry that I hurt you. It is never your fault when I yell like that (acknowledge). I will do better next time.”

The reflection part of an apology is separate from your apology. This is where you work to understand the trigger and what emotion it brought up in you, and the childhood message or pattern that lies underneath so you can heal the wound that the trigger exposed. 

Apologizing to your children is an important component of your child’s emotional intelligence. It teaches your child that people take responsibility for their actions, and helps them to build trust that people will do the right thing. It also will support your child’s understanding of their own emotions by validating their experience, allowing them to develop self-trust.

It’s never easy to take accountability when you make a mistake, but like anything else in life, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. 

If you’re looking for more support to understand your triggers and how to work with the underlying messages, I’ve got you covered. Check out my Understanding Triggers Masterclass. Use code AIMJUNE24 for 25% off before June 30.

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