As parents we have a special relationship with our children…or we hoped we would. We have a deep emotional connection with them along with a strong sense of responsibility for them. When we brought our children 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 our child was in trouble with drugs, alcohol, self-harm, an eating disorder, porn, LGBTQ issues, a mental affliction, or something else.
We tried everything in our power to stop their behaviors….we forgave, made excuses, covered up, smoothed out and believed every lie. When our first attempts at changing them or denying their behaviors didn’t work we tried to exercise our authority by making demands or controlling 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, or if they will get arrested – their future in general.
Our constant companions are fear, sadness, and anger. We’re terrified of the what-ifs. Furious with them, their friends, and ourselves, we’re also full of guilt and shame. Some of my worst anguish came with my sense of 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 we can become totally obsessed with our child’s problems and so full of fear for their welfare that we neglect ourselves and our other relationships.
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 can actually 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 the 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. Loosening our grip lets them own what is theirs while we will own what is ours. Imagine that.
2. Put into practice courageous love. Letting our children become responsible for their own problems is loving. Remember, they aren’t only our children. They’re God’s too. For me, remembering that my daughter belongs to Him too gives me the strength and peace I need to let Him 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.
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 our 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.
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 unchained 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. Hebrews 13:5 I will never leave you nor forsake you. But we need to surrender both them and ourselves, only then can we be at peace with an unknown future because we know this one thing: we’re both in good hands.
4. Attend a support group. I can’t encourage this enough when we’re living with an unsolved problem. Support groups provide a safe place to process our feelings and learn from others who understand and won’t look down on us. We find the help we need as we begin applying the expereince, strength and hope others share to our lives. Hearing the stories of those who are a few steps ahead of us is a huge source of encouragement. 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 great.
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: dena@HopeForHurtingParents.com)
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 are meeting online right now; here’s the link to my church, services are streamed live, 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:
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.