2 More Questions to Help Parents in Pain Survive the Holidays

The holiday season can be a very difficult time for parents whose sons and daughters are engaging in destructive, unwise behaviors or suffer rockwellwith a mental illness. In my last blog I mentioned three questions to help you prepare for this time of year. We wish for the Norman Rockwell experience, but our experience often falls far short. Here are two more questions to consider that I believe will help lessen your hurt and disappointment if things don’t turn out as you hoped. I’ve been there and I know how hard it can be. To review, here are questions one through three from my last blog posted on November 11th.

1) Adjust or lower your expectations. What are some expectations you have of your child for this holiday season?

2) Consider doing things differently. Relevant to the coming holidays, what are some traditions that are special to you?

3)  Focus on others. Look for a way to help someone else who has a need, is hurting or lonely.

Now for the next two questions:

            4) How will you strengthen yourself ?

Listen to your favorite music, especially praise and worship. Read something inspirational every day; spend time in prayer and meditation, as you seek God’s help; hold onto His promises, reminding yourself of Truth. Go to a support group – I like Al Anon. It reminds me I’m not alone. Keep taking one day at a time and be thankful for the little things. Start a gratitude list. Add to it daily. If you can, take a nap to refresh yourself. Get some exercise. These things will relax and rejuvenate you!

5) What are your goals for this holiday season?
Decide what they are and focus on them. Remind yourself of them daily. Make notes to yourself and post them as a reminder. Leading up to Thanksgiving I focus on what I’m grateful for. After that I focus on the meaning of the birth of Christ. I reflect on God’s goodness and faithfulness. I seek ways to show his love to others.

My child is not the whole sum of my life. Therefore, I can be joyful and give energy to what’s really important to me during the holiday season The choice is up to me. I can be intentional and not let the situation with my child ruin my ability to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holidays may by difficult, but they can still be special.

I encourage you to think ahead, prepare yourself and focus on others. If you do, you can lower your stress level and even enjoy the coming holiday season.

These Bible verses help me:

“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:4)

“Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past; see I am doing a new thing. . . ”  (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Father, help each parent reading this to find the way that is best for them to not be overcome by greater sadness, hurt and disappointment this holiday season. Speak to their hearts. Show them your way to joy and comfort while their child is far from them. Bless them I ask, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

3 Questions to Help Parents in Pain Survive the Holidays

The holiday season can be a very difficult time for parents whose sons and daughters are engaging in destructive, unwise behaviors or suffer turkeywith a mental illness. They’d rather skip it . Too hard. Too many memories. Is that you? Listen to me – we only set ourselves up for more pain, disappointment and heartache if we don’t think about it ahead of time. We can become quite depressed if we aren’t careful. The best thing we can do is to think about our expectations and get our hearts ready. The following three questions are very helpful to prepare your heart for this time of year.

1) How do you think the holidays might be difficult for you?
Some dread them, wondering if there will be yet another crisis. Then there’s the empty place at the table. The absence of their presence. They anticipate the discomfort of family members asking awkward questions. “How is ______ doing? What are they up to these days? Where are they?” Anticipate how you will respond. Then realize you need to appreciate what you have with them right now (or without them) and stop talking about how it once was. Don’t dwell on past memories (good or bad). Be thankful for what is, then focus on making new memories.

2) What might help? How do you need to adjust your expectations?

Focus on loving them and forgiving them – just as they are today. Accept what is. Let go of the Walton Family Christmas fantasy. It’s not real. Be flexible with your plans and expectations. Hold them loosely. Lower them. Change them. Let them go. Consider doing things differently this year. Start a new tradition. Look for a way to give of yourself – your time, your energy and abilities to someone in need. It will surprise you how much better you’ll feel when you shift the focus off yourself. It’s a great reminder that you’re not alone. Many others are struggling, too. It’s truly in giving that we receive. It’s a natural way to improve your mood by releasing endorphins in your brain. You can’t lose!

3) How might gift giving be different?
If your loved one is abusing substances or involved in illegal activities, don’t give cash or gifts that may be too easily returned for cash.
Give less if it seems appropriate. In some cases gift cards are a good option. But be aware that some cards allow you to make a small purchase, then get the rest of the cash back. Avoid that kind. You might shop at thrift stores where your gift can’t be returned. You might consider taking them shopping to let them select their own gift, then get coffee or a bite to eat afterwards. Letting them shop for themselves protects you from being hurt if they don’t like what you bought.

This Bible verse has meant a lot to me:

“Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past; see I am doing a new thing. . .”  (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Oh God, help us anticipate what might be difficult for us this year, let go of our expectations, then consider what we might do differently. We need you. This is very painful. We aren’t strong enough to do it on our own. Please guide and comfort. We look to you for wisdom. Thank you for caring about us and our children. Amen.

In my next blog I will have two more questions for you to consider with another Scripture I’ve found encouraging. With these insights and preparations you can survive and even enjoy the holidays. If I did, you can, too.

Storms in Parenting

Have you ever been startled awake in the middle of the night from a phone call with bad news about your son or daughter? If you’re reading this, like me, you probably have. One night I was jolted awake for a different reason. This time a violent storm was to blame.  As I laid there trying to get back to sleep between loud crashes of thunder and bright flashes of lightning, I realized how similar it was to how we feel as parents of wayward children (I had felt it many times) – those who have problems with drugs and alcohol, self-harm, mental illness, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, same sex identity issues, are in trouble with the law, etc.

We’re often taken by surprise – shaken up. During the storm that night I laid there waiting for the thunder to subside. I began to relax, thinking it was lessening, then BOOM, another ear-piercing crash. I almost jumped out of bed. After that, it took a while for my heart to stop racing – and this pattern kept repeating. I was wide awake for a long time that night.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not frightened by storms. It was the unexpected element of surprise that shook me up. This is similar to what we experience in the situations I mentioned above. When we let our guard down, hoping our child is making progress – that this time they really do want to change, that they’re done drinking and using, that they won’t hurt themselves anymore, that they finally want a new life, that their mental illness is under control – then find out we’re wrong, it can really shake us up if we aren’t expecting anything is wrong.

BOOM. Another relapse, arrest, cuts on their body, medications aren’t working or they stop taking them; you find a suicide note or journal writings that reveal they’re not doing well again – it’s so hard. You’re heart is racing. You feel like you’ve had the wind knocked out of you. Blood pressure rises, pulse quickens,  palms sweat, can’t sleep or sleep too much, can’t eat or eat too much. Dare we let ourselves relax again? Can we ever really rest or is this just a lull before the next thunder clasp startles us into the reality that it’s still not over?

I’ve learned to face the storms my daughter brings into my life by reminding myself that I’m not alone. God is with me.  He cares more than I can imagine – about me and my child. He can help me overcome my anxieties and fears. He can give me peace in the midst of life’s most violent storms. They may startle me and knock me off balance. I may be shaking in my shoes, shivering under the covers, but when I reach out to Him for help, He will come. I know I’ll be okay even if my child is never okay – as horrible as that would be. I can learn to walk in peace not based on what is happening in their lives. The thunder may keep crashing, the lightning keep flashing, but I will not be shaken. I’m held in His strong, loving arms.

What about you?

Two Bible verses I like are Psalm 23  “. . . even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff they comfort me . . .”

Also Psalm 75:3  “When the earth and all its people quake, it is I (God) who holds its pillars firm.”