Powerless to Change My Child

by | Feb 14, 2011 | prayer, what you can do | 4 comments

    “I can’t.  God can.  I think I’ll let him!”

I love this statement.  I think it should be the motto of every parent of a challenging, troubled child.  If your son or daughter is abusing drugs or alcohol, smoking cigarettes, cutting themselves, depressed, having sex, is suicidal, has an eating disorder, has a same sex attraction or is in trouble with the law there is nothing you can do to change them.  You are powerless.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try and do something.  Of course you want to do everything in your power to help them (offer counseling,  Baker Act them if needed,  take to a doctor or psychiatrist for an evaluation, offer rehab), but ultimately they must decide they want help or none of your efforts will do any good.  They must reach the point of being ready to change, ready to begin a new life.  Until then, sadly, all of your efforts to force them into another way of living will be futile.

I tried this with my daughter.  I was just sure that if we just took her to a counselor,  got her evaluated by a psychiatrist, got her on meds if needed, put her through a residential rehab program, brought the right people around her, etc.  etc.  then she would be “fixed”.  She would be just fine and all would be well!  I was so wrong.  I learned the hard way that I had no control over her.  I could not change her as hard as I tried.  I was truly powerless. This feeling of utter helplessness is so horrible.  The worst.  Especially when you see your beloved son or daughter destroying themselves and you can do nothing but stand by watch it happen.  Pure torture.  If you are in this situation now you know.  Gut-wrenching.  Makes you sick.  There were many days I wondered if my daughter would survive.

I had to learn to let go and wait until she wanted it for herself.  I am sure our efforts did make some deposits in her life that helped her when we was ready later on, but at the time, it was just that – a deposit she would go back to and draw on later when she was ready.  So of course you want to do that!   But until she was sick and tired of being sick and tired. . .  Until she wanted more out of life. . . until she wanted to be well no matter what it would take. . . until she wanted it for herself,  not to please me or her dad or anyone else,  she wasn’t ready.  She had to want a different life.  She had to want to live and only God could make that happen.

When the words  “I can’t.  God can.  I think I’ll let him”  describe your state of mind you can find peace in any situation, especially with your children.  I know it’s possible because I experienced it!   I think it sums up the concept of letting go and letting God pretty well.  It’s taking our hands off and trusting him to be “hands on” in their lives, doing what we can’t do.  We must keep trusting, trusting, trusting.

Our problem may be big, but God is BIGGER!

I have no power to change my child, but God is all-powerful.  He has all the power necessary to do that.

I don’t know what to do, but God knows exactly what to do.

I can do nothing to rescue them.  God can do anything to rescue them.

He can even move mountains if that is what it will take.

So, I will keep giving my child to him, stay out of the way and let him work.

“Have no anxiety about anything . . . bring your requests to God

and the peace of God will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”   (Phil. 4:6-7)


  1. Liane Ingram

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  2. Sue Howard

    I work in a church that has many young adults and I know your message would be of great consolation to many of the parents and siblings of those facing the challenges you have addressed.
    I would like to share some of your insights in our Church bulletin with reference to your site. Would this be alright with you?

    • denayohe

      Thank you for asking and yes, of course you may share what I have written here! I would be honored for you to do this. Please refer people to our website for even more helpful resources: hopeforhurtingparents.com My husband and I are also available to coach/mentor anyone who might be interested in leading a support group for these parents. We have been doing this for the last 4 and a half years. Thank you again for wanting to use some of my writing to encourage other parents. It brings me great joy to know God is helping others as a result of my pain.

  3. Sue Howard

    Thank you Dena, I will share this web site with many of the parents I meet. God Bless you in your work and in your words! Sue


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