As parents, we have a special relationship with our children…or we hoped we would. What do we do when we discover they have a problem we can’t solve? I’ve found 4 ways we can learn how to live with an unsolved problem. We need to discover how to do this since we have a deep emotional connection with our sons and daughters along with a strong sense of responsibility for their welfare. When we brought them into the world we eagerly watched them grow under our loving guidance. We were full of hopes and dreams for their future. Then they shattered when we realized the truth of the situation with our child. If they’re not doing well, neither are we. How do we live like that for a prolonged period of time?
We tried everything in our power to stop their behavior, to change them: We forgave, made excuses, ignored, covered up, smoothed out and believed every lie. When our first attempts at fixing them or denying their behaviors didn’t work, we tried to exercise our authority by making demands or attempting to control them…..but still, nothing we said or did worked.
The Affects on Us
If our children still live with us, we are sickened by the daily experience of dealing with unacceptable behavior. We listen anxiously for them to come in at night or sneak out. We fear the phone ringing in the wee hours – a call could mean tragedy has struck. We worry about their safety, health, relationships, school/college, jobs/career, marriages/children, or if they will go to jail/prison – their future in general.
Fear, sadness, and anger are constant unwanted companions. Terrified of the what-ifs sleep escapes us. Furious with them, their friends, and ourselves, we’re full of guilt and shame. Some of my worst anguish came from my struggle with guilt. I relentlessly asked myself painful questions that had no answers: “What did I do wrong? How could I have prevented__________from happening? This must be my fault, how else could my child be this way? What should I do now?” Sorrow engulfs us — over what has happened, over all that has been lost, and what never will be.
Are We Supposed to Stop Caring?
Of course not. But, please, watch out for this problem.
We can become so obsessed with our child’s problems and overcome with fear for their welfare, that we neglect ourselves and our other relationships.
Has this happened to you?
What’s the rememdy? Discovering how to live with an unsolved problem.
4 Ways to Live With an Unsolved Problem
1. Let go of the need to help. This allows our children to experience the results of their actions and could save their lives. This applies mostly to adults although there will be occassions when the principle can be advantageous for teens. We help all we can while they’re under eighteen and still live with us. For adults, we need to recognize what responsibilities are ours and what are theirs. Then we can resist the temptation to find solutions for their troubles and not make them ours. Loosening our grip lets them own what is theirs while we will own what is ours.
2. Practice courageous love. Letting our children become responsible for their own problems is one of the best ways we can love them. Remember, they aren’t only our children. They’re God’s too. For me, remembering that my daughter belongs to Him, not only me, gives the strength and peace I need to get out of the way so that He can work in her life. Even if our children end up in rehab or jail (or worse), God can use their painful consequences to turn them around. He can use hard realities to bring about good in both their lives and ours. Haven’t your most painful experiences brought about the greatest amount of growth in your life?
3. Release our children with love into God’s hands. This helps us regain our serenity. I know the process of releasing isn’t easy to do, but for us to be healthy ourselves we need to learn how. Sometimes parental love can become a smothering love, preventing our off-spring from maturing. Our kind of caring isn’t always the best. We need to give our sons and daughters back to God and trust Him to take care of them while we continue to communicate an unconditional loving attitude.This kind of love is liberating and life changing.
The person who trusts God more worries less. I hope that’s the kind of person you want to be.
Trusting God (our Higher Power) as we turn our anxieties for our children over to Him, empowers us to live one day at a time. Relief is found. Finally, released from the despair we’ve known in the past, we rest in the assurance that whatever happens – whether our child is ever okay or not – we will be alright. God will take care of us and help us. He will never abandon us. The Bible affirms this in Hebrews 13:5 I will never leave you nor forsake you. But we need to surrender both our precious chidren and ourselves to Him, only then can we be at peace with an unknown future because we’re assured of this one thing: we’re both in good hands.
4. Attend a support group. I can’t encourage this enough. Support groups provide a safe place to process our feelings and learn from others who understand, who won’t look down on us. We find the help and strength we need.. Hearing the stories of those who are a few steps ahead of us is a huge source of hope. They give us courage to take scary steps ourselves. If they can do what sounds impossible, then so can we. Hope for Hurting Parents, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Celebrate Recovery , Hurting Moms Mending Hearts, and Thrive Family Support groups are some great ones.
If you’re in a place where you feel ready to help others, Hope for Hurting Parents can help with that as well (so can some of the groups listed above). A free sample of our materials is available from our website. (If you want to know more, send me a personal message: hope@HopeForHurtingParents.com and I’ll connect you with one of our teammates who are ready to assist you.)
You can learn to live with an unsolved problem in your child’s life as you let go of the need to help, practice courageous love, release your child into God’s hands, and get involved in a support group. For me, this journey always gets back to the matter of trust. How much do I trust God cares? Do I believe He is powerful enough to help me and my child? What about you?
There’s always room for our trust muscles to grow. If yours are weak, you can strenghten them as you take steps to know God better by reading His Word, the Bible (there are online options plus many other books that help faith grow; watching podcasts is good too), talking to Him in prayer, worshipping (in a Bible/gospel-centered church (many meet online now; here’s the link to my church, services are streamed live ad are on the website, its’ nondenominational) and seeking fellowship with other believers.
What Does the Bible Say About Trust?
Here are a few verses from the Bible on trust: (each is from the NIV)
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid… (Psalm 56:3-4).
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act (Psalm 37:5).
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
Dear worn out parent, put yourself and your child in God’s hands. He is working in both of you even though you may not see what He’s doing right now.
Recommended Resource: The One Year Book of Hope by Nancy Guthrie
**From the archives