When Parents Feel Powerless

by | Oct 26, 2020 | what you can do | 3 comments

photo cred. Mary Donovan

I clicked my cell phone shut and dropped to my knees on the bedroom floor. Tears streamed down my cheeks. How could this happen again? Nothing we do works. We’ve tried everything and yet she keeps falling back into the same destructive patterns. What’s going to happen next? I hate feeling so powerless! 

My daughter had relapsed after her third stint in rehab. I finally realized how powerless I was to be able to do anything to help her. What does being powerless mean to you? Webster’s dictionary defines powerless as the quality of lacking strength or power; being weak and feeble.

Weak and feeble. Lacking strength. Ugh.

Admitting We’re Powerless

photo cred. Abel Marquez on unsplash

As parents of sons and daughters who have problems with drugs and alcohol, self-harm, eating disorders, pornography, sexual identity, mental illness, breaking the law, etc. we try desperately to control them. We wish we had the ability to fix them, protect them, rescue them. We want to make all their problems go away. Can’t we strong arm them into getting help? Can’t we force them to change? Threaten them with…what? We are bound to fail whenever we try to make anyone do something they do not want to do, especially when that person is our child.

  • We are powerless over their anger, unbelief, doubts, and rebellion.
  • We are powerless, weak, and feeble in the face of everything that over-powers them.
  • We are powerless over the experiences that have occurred in their lives, driving them away from God, to the things of this world.
  • We are powerless over drugs and alcohol, over mental illness, over all that threatens to destroy them.
  • We are powerless to even convince them they have a problem. We aren’t that strong.

You know what, admitting this feels good. Accepting our limitations takes the pressure off. There’s no need to pretend or beat ourselves up over what we can’t do. Let’s face the truth.

It is what it is.

photo cred. Newspring Church

Peace will grow as we acknowledge our lack of control over our children and continue surrendering them to God.This is ultimately our child’s battle, not ours. . . but God will fight on their behalf. And He has all power and control.

Al Anon says when we’re able to admit that we’re powerless . . . our lives becomes more manageable.

Serenity begins when we surrender.

This Bible verse encourages me when I’m distressed:

Summon your power, O God; show us your strength, as you have done before (Psalms 68:28).

Dear friend, He can and I believe He will. Draw near and lean on His strength when you feel powerless, weak, and feeble. In Him you can be strong. And we aren’t totally powerless because there’s something we can do…we can pray. There are no guarantees of the outcome, but when we pray, we give our burdens to God and let Him work. We find peace. I need more of that. What about you?

Recommended books: Co-Dependent No More by Melodie Beattie.  Al Anon literature is good too. I like Courage to Change. You can get a copy for about $8 at an Al Anon meeting or online. Go online to find a meeting in your area at al-anon.org 

You are Not Alone: Hope for Hurting Parents of Troubled Kids by Dena Yohe.



  1. Barb Kosick

    Our son is Pamsexual, on drugs, and drinking. He also has Muscular Dystrophy.

    • Tom and Dena Yohe

      I just remembered a few resources you might like: Posture Shift (postureshift.com) and a book called Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan (with his mother).

    • Tom and Dena Yohe

      I will keep your comment private, Barb. I am so sorry for the pain this must bring you. MD is a long, hard journey, but add to it drugs, alcohol and his sexual orientation and you have the perfect storm for a parent’s heart. So crushing. O God, please work in Barb’s son’s heart so he will look for love and acceptance in the right places. Work in a powerful way so he will no longer need to soothe his inner pain with substances. Cause them to no longer satisfy or fill the emptiness. Turn him to You and heal his soul with Your powerful love. Amen.

      Barb, do you know about our online groups? We also have in-person ones around the country. Look on our website under or on FB for information or let me know and I can tell you more. We also have a secret FB group where you can vent, ask for advice, resources or prayer. No one can see the comments or who’s in the group except for the other members. If you would like to join that group, send me a friend request. Once I accept it, I can send you an invitation. It will show up in your FB notifications.