For the Parent Who is Too Afraid to Let Go

by | Mar 1, 2021 | what you can do | 8 comments

photo cred. Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

I can’t do it! I’m so scared! Isn’t there anything I can do? How can I possibly let go when I don’t know what might happen if I do? Help!

Parents of a son or daughter who struggle with dangerous and troubling issues have a big problem. We can’t let go…we’re too afraid. Our teen-to-adult child may be impacted by one of these: substance use (alcohol or drugs), depression or some other mental affliciton, suicidal thoughts/attempts, cutting, an eating disorder, trouble with the law, a gender identity issue, chronic gaming, pornography, or some other heartbreaking behavior. Understandably, we’re a wreck. We want to let go but we’re too weak and don’t know when is the right time, much less how to step back and stop controlling.

Letting go could help us keep our sanity yet is most difficult to put into practice. I understand.

I’m one of those parents who didn’t know how or if I could…and I was too frightened to try.

The Opposite of Letting Go

Letting go is confusing and difficult. There are no clear guidelines. We long for the book that would tell us our next steps, including guarantees of the desired outcome: When _________________ happens, then do __________________.

If only life was that simple.

To me, letting go is loosening my grip, relaxing my hold, releasing control. This isn’t easy to do when the object is our child and they’re well-being is at risk. Letting go is even more difficult for those of us who have fallen into bad habits over a long period of time. We’ve always____________________.

I’ve found I can understand a concept better when I have a better grasp on what it’s not.

What is the opposite of letting go?

  • Tightening our grip on something we want until our knuckles turn white, like a child who won’t let go of a toy.
  • Demanding our way; insisting on certain behavior.
  • Attempting to maintin control over something or someone because we believe we know what is best.
  • Overly involved because we need a specific outcome or result.
  • Over-helping; doing for someone what they could and should do for themselves if given the opportunity.

Stop It

photo cred. google images

If you see yourself in any of these descriptions I have two words for you: STOP IT! (Watch a hilarious video clip of a skit from a Bob Newhart TV program about this. I had to share it.)

Step back, take a deep breath and RELEASE.

Releasing control doesn’t mean you don’t care. You aren’t being unkind or unloving. You will always be there for your son or daughter, ready and willing to do everything in your power to help them when they are ready to change and accept help.

When. They. Are. Ready.

Not before.

Of course discerning when they’re ready can be difficult. At times, we may be fooled and taken advantage of. There may be occassions we decide to give our children a chance and wait to see what happens. If they weren’t ready, hopefully, we’ll learn from our mistake and make a better decision the next time we have the opportunity.

Give your child huge doses of grace–and yourself too. Keep reminding them how much you love them. You won’t abandon them. Your door will be open when they want help. Keep the porch light on.

Our difficulty in letting go is directly tied to our fears.

That’s what I experienced. Full of fear for  my daughter’s welfare I couldn’t bear the thought of not helping or rescuing. I didn’t know how to stop. If I did, what might happen? I loved her so much . . . how could I let go of fear and worry for the child I would give my life for?

Learning to Let Go

For me, learning to let go happened in incremental baby steps (baby steps is a phrase I’ve borrowed from the movie What About Bob? with Bill Murray. If you need a good laugh that movie is sure to give you many.)

photo cred. Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

Letting go was a long, slow process of giving my daughter over to the care of God, allowing Him to work in her life as He saw best,and  keeping my hands off. Letting Him be hands on.

Attending support groups regularly was also a tremendous help. I gained strength and wisdom from others who were further ahead of me on a similar journey. I learned from their example.

Faith also played a key part. Because I believe God is loving and good, I had confidence He loved my girl even more than I did. This filled me with great peace and comfort even though I knew there was no guarantee her life would turn out like I wanted. Tragic events did occur…and more could occur in the future. But I finally learned I had to release her into the hands of her Maker and get out of His way — for her sake and for mine.

We can trust what we can’t change or fix to a God who is totally trustworthy.

Because of His divine help, I’m no longer consumed by fear and worry. Sleepless nights don’t plague my life anymore. I quit trying to fix, rescue, and protect my daughter from painful consequences. I now understand that hard lessons could be exactly what she needs to bring about the changes I’ve prayed for. God is always at work and uses everything in our lives for good.

Dear fellow parent, letting go is one of the hardest but most loving choices you can make — for yourself and for your child. Look to God for the strength and courage you need. He’s ready and waiting to help you. I know this is difficult. That’s why I included a chapter (#9) on Letting Go in my book, You Are Not Alone.


Here are a few bible verses that encouraged me when I decided to let my daughter go:

Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:13-14 NIV).

Casting the whole of your care (all your anxieties and all your concerns, once and for all) on Him, for He cares for you (I Peter 5:7 Amplified).

Book: Praying Your Loved One Home by Pam Jones Lanhart


  1. christian

    I do agree a little of what your saying,and there’s a few things I don’t.letting go is very scary I’m a single father of a 17 year old and a 19 year old daughters and I tried the give them some space and let them learn.well, things started to get really dangerous and I had to force control because I’m trying to save there life.the crazy thing is they been threw a lot of serious things that you and I or other normal people would of caught on by now!! They weren’t raised that way and and whole lot of it comes from internet,tv,school,so called friends. I never had the internet and all the other things they hav, so it took longer for those crazy ideas to come to us now its at the tip of there fingers ..television today is so disappointing everything is about sex,or it teaches them if your not happy quit and say f it…nobody stays together 80% of the kids in school hav a step mom or a step dad….? I know god is good and he has a plan for all of us and I do need to continue to keep trust in him….

    • denayohe

      Thank you for your comments! Yes, letting go is VERY scary and can become dangerous if your child insists on continuing in their risky behaviors. (personally, I think its even more frightening when its a daughter, and you have two!) If they are under 18 then sometimes I think you do need to step in and get more involved to save their lives. Even if they are over 18 you may choose to do something more drastic — like calling 911or the police to have them Baker Acted if you think they are at risk of suicide, or planning an intervention if they have a problem with drugs/alcohol. I would rather have my child be mad at me and be alive than not. Each situation is unique and we as their parents can only do the best that we can. After all, none of us has ever done this before and there’s no rule book for us to follow that says when this happens do this or that! I sure wish there was! And yes, it is a hard time to raise children. They are exposed to so much that we never were. They need supernatural help and we do, too! God give you wisdom and strength as you find your way through these deep waters.

  2. Maryd

    Wonderful! There are always a million reasons why “letting go” isn’t for “our situation right now.” But the truth is we were never really in control in the first place. Only just enough to feel like we can breath, maybe to sleep a few hours a night.

    Letting go doesn’t mean “out of control” as you have said, but purposing to place all our trust in the hands of our Lord who NEVER lets go. Still pretty difficult – a minute by minute endeavor – but absolutely necessary for both our health ans the long-term well-being of the ones we love.

    Thank you Dena. You are a blessing!

    • denayohe

      Thanks for your comment, Mary! Thanks for the reminder that the Lord never lets go of our children! That is so reassuring for me.

  3. Elaine Lukawski

    I have a 17 year old wayward girl and just recently God told me to let go and give her to him. I can tell you that my heart just aches so much right now. However your words have brought hope and God is good. Thank you and God bless you

    • denayohe

      I am so sorry, Elaine. I know it is so painful and frightening to let go when you do not know where or how it will end. Be patient with yourself. It is a process. God is indeed so good to connect us with the right people and resources we need right when we need it! God bless you as you give her back to him. May he help you trust him more and more each day.
      Here is a great verse to comfort you: “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my lost sheep.” (Ezekiel 34: 11 – 12)

  4. Evette Feigel

    I too have a 20 year old who moved out the last 6 months -I find more at peace even though I know she’s not thriving -lost her job smokes pot norning til night alcohol boyfriend-it makes me realize nothing’s different really as when she lived with me.. only I don’t do the what if’s anymore. I can’t control her circumstances or the consequences of her choices-but her not in my home I’m at ease more and pray every day for her to see her life for the sad mess it is. Her bipolar only complains thins so much more! She has mentioned moving back home and I’ve always told her we where her and she had a home, but now I’m sick and feel awful because I’m dreading this!!!! I can’t go back to the way things where…any suggestions? I’ve read your book Dena and Allison Bottkes book maybe I need to go back to the chapters she did have a contract for adult children moving in but I never was able to access it on her website
    Thanks so much I needed this blog today ????????❤️

    • Tom and Dena Yohe

      Evette, thank you for your comment. I somehow missed your comment…I’m so sorry. I’m glad to hear you are finding more peace inspite of how your daughter is doing. That’s hard to get past being consumed with the what ifs…how wonderful God has helped you do that! But now she wants to come home yet you see no changes in her…and you’re dreading it. I would say trust your gut. If you feel you can’t do it, then don’t. Tell her the door is always open (if you think you can) when she’s ready for change, but you can’t live like that anymore. It’s okay to have the boundaries you need for your own peace of mind, your emotional health. I do have a sample contract I can email you. Adapt it to your situation if God leads you to do so. What I will say is that it’s hard to follow through with consequences. So be sure you can be strong enough to follow through if you need to. Yes, Allison Bottke’s book has a lot of wisdom. Another good resource in the area of helping families dealing with addiction is: Pam Lanhart has online groups and is available to help families as a coach. Another family coach for addiction is Cathy Taughinbaugh:
      May God bless you and keep you. Numbers 6:24 Amen.