A Source of Help for Parents in Pain

Are you a parent in pain? Have the destructive choices and behaviors of your son or daughter left you an emotional wreck? Is their struggle support groupwith mental illness pushing you to the edge? Do you isolate because you don’t want to “lose it” in public? We’ve been there. We get it.

If you said yes to any of these questions, then I have a word of hope for you. After my eighteen-year-old daughter left home to pursue a life of substance abuse and self-injury, I fell headlong in a pit so dark and deep I wanted to die. I just wanted to escape the excruciating pain.

I found a way out of that pit of despair. You can get out, too.

Guilt and a Song for Parents in Pain

I can easily get caught up in feelings of guilt over my parenting. I feel guilty over what I did and should not have done. I feel guilty over what I did not do and should have done. I feel guilty over the quality and quantity of the good I did do. Was it enough? IF ONLY I had . . .

Then I found a song that helped me.

When a Parent Doesn’t Like their Child

Parents love their sons and daughters regardless of their behavior. From the day they were born we were smitten. As we watched them grow up our love for them grew stronger and stronger. Then things began to change. They began to rebel and disobey. We caught them in lies. We had to discipline and enforce boundaries. Then the day came when, to our sadness, we found ourselves being the bad guy- the enemy, insteadattitude of their hero. Sigh.

Sometimes we don’t like the person they’ve become. They’re rude, selfish, disrespectful, and even hateful.

Alcohol and drugs changed them.

Depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses changed them.

Hurting Parents and Responsibility

What is it called when I care more about something in someone’s life than they do?
When I try to“help them because I  don’t want negative consequences coming their way?

I remember an incident with my daughter. It was regarding getting her driver’s license. I kept planning when I could take her, but every time I set a day to go, she had an excuse. This would frustrate me so much. Then it hit me.index

I cared more about getting her driver’s license than she did.

One afternoon we sat down in  a quiet place and I apologized. I told her I realized I was pushing my agenda on her and it was wrong.  I told her when she decided she was ready, to let me know. If I was available, we would go.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t bring it up again.

I was shocked when she paused and responded, “Okay, how about Thursday?”  My schedule was clear that afternoon, so we went and she got her license.

That was so much easier and less frustrating for me. Why did I wait so long to put the responsibility back on her?

So, what do you think? What is it called when I care more about something in someone’s life than they do, when I try to “help” too much, spare them negative consequences, or begin to own their problem? In a word–enabling.

This driver’s license story is a simple example. Here are a few others: We give reminders, hints, FYIs; subtle or not so subtle placement of notes, bills, due dates or tax-related documents, with the hope that they will want to be as responsible as we think we are.

Often, I can see the long-term consequences of my teen to adult child’s decision, or indecision. I know what may happen.  I try to spare them pain or make their path less difficult. Frequently, I end up being the one who gets frustrated, upset, and angry over the issue– not them.  I find myself owning their problems.

What message am I sending? Be responsible, like “responsible me?”
Sounds like a movie title. Oh wait, that was “Despicable Me!”  Enough said.


What’s the Cure For a Parent’s Insanity?

Are you a mom or dad who feels like you’re going crazy? Our child’s destructive behaviors and unwise choices can bring us to the place of thinking we’re losing our mind. It’s pure insanity.

Insanity has been defined as “doing something the same way over and over again, expecting different results.” According to this, I must be insane.meditate

Over and over again I’ve made attempts to control and fix and change my daughter, only to get the same results. I’ve had a revelation.

I can’t do it. I can’t change her. It was wasted effort. Useless.

Living with the pain and stress of a loved one’s alcohol or drug abuse, self-harm,  mental illness, same-sex issues, pornography use, gambling, or suicidal tendencies can make you a little nutty. No matter how hard you try, you get the same results.

With good intentions we often try to control people, places and things, believing our way is the right way. Unsuccessful, we’re slow to recognize reality. We keep trying. It’s an insane way to live.

In the 12 Step recovery program, Step 3 says: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God . . .”

We need to come to the place where we’re ready to relinquish our desire for control and let our children – any age – learn from their mistakes.  When we do this we’ll have a more peaceful life. Sounds good to me.

I have to let go of what I want and of the idea that I have any power to change another person. I can only change myself – and I don’t even do that very well.

Recovery programs say this is “choosing between an insane life and a sane one”. My will – trying to make something happen – or God’s will – giving it to Him and trusting Him with the outcome.

How long will we continue running around in the same circles before we’re willing to admit defeat and turn to a Source of real help? Let’s stop doing the same things over and over again. This will only make us dizzy and sick.

I don’t know about you, but I want to exchange my insanity for the sanity God can give. He’s my source of help.  I can make this exchange when I  let go of my will and give my child over to His care.

I hate feeling so helpless and powerless, but I need to remember that God is in control. He is working where I can’t.God is in control

This Scripture verse gives me hope that with God’s help, I can get off the insanity merry-go-round:

“See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Great Book to Help Hurting Parents Pray

Have you ever felt like you didn’t know how to pray for your child? Have you experienced sleepless nights and tortuous days that left you at a Prayers for Prodigals1loss to know what to ask God for? If your son or daughter has rejected your faith, strayed away from God, struggles with an addiction, self-injury or an eating disorder, mental illness, same sex identity issues, suicidal thoughts, or is incarcerated, this probably describes how you feel.

Today’s post is another book review: Prayers for Prodigals by James Banks, available at Amazon. I’ve found this book to be a huge help. Prayers for Prodigals: 90 Days of Prayer for Your Child, is a real treasure for the parent who believes in the power of God to change lives.

Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, gave an endorsement  saying, James “reveals the truth for effective prayer – God’s Word”. He states that this book can provide guidance and comfort to help parents trust the Lord with their children.

What I like about Prayers for Prodigals is how Banks takes Scripture verses and forms them into prayers along with his honest struggle as a father who struggles like we do. They’re beautiful. Moving.

The book is divided into 13 weeks. Each week begins with a mediation, followed by six prayers for that week. My copy is full of underlining, starred sentences, highlighted sections and turned down pages. I’ve used it over and over again. When I make these prayers my own, I feel like I have truly met with God.

Some of the sections are:

  • Don’t Cry
  • The Stretcher of Faith
  • Coming to Our Senses
  • Waiting for an Answer
  • Everything Is Possible
  • God’s Timing

The first sentence of the introduction reads:

“When you have a prodigal child, prayer doesn’t always come easily. You know you need to pray, but you don’t know where to begin. That’s why this book was written.”   (p.13)

pray1Here is a taste from one of Banks’ prayers, “River of Delights” (p.215):

How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.  (Psalm 36:8)

“A ‘river of delights’.

What a beautiful thought.

Show my son the way to that river, Lord.

Let him dive in headfirst and discover ‘how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ’ (Ephesians 3:18). . .

Let him drink of its sweet, refreshing water and ‘never thirst’ again (John 4:14).

I pray that you will satisfy every longing of his soul. You are the true source of every delight, ‘the spring of living water’ (Jeremiah 17:13).”

When Parents Rescue and Enable

drowning2A parent recently asked us about rescuing someone who was drowning. Drawing an analogy from this, they wondered what the difference is between rescuing and enabling? What would you say to this sometimes confusing question?
This was our response:
A drowning emergency isn’t the same as something that has become a regular pattern of destructive behavior. Of course we’d jump in the water to save them or anyone else who was drowning. It would be ridiculous to suggest otherwise. It wouldn’t matter if it was their fault or not.
We’re not counselors or professionals, nor wise enough to know what you should do. The circumstances in which you find yourself are uniquely yours. And even if some advice is good, you may not always be in the emotional place to implement it.
So please see this email as my personal understanding and very likely inadequate. Take what you want and disregard the rest. I must always ask myself, “what is the context we’re talking about?”  An example would be a popular definition of enabling: doing something for someone that they could and should be doing for themselves.

Taken out of context does this mean I should never be a servant as Jesus suggested? No. But it is saying that when it comes to our teen or adult children who want to make destructive decisions, we are not to assist them in their destruction or step in to prevent natural consequences from taking place, especially if this action would assist them in continuing their destructive behavior.  
If my child were to come to me and say, “I’m broken, wrong and powerless to change but I desperately want to,”  I would do whatever I could to help them.  But that help needs to be considered along with my other vital obligations so it won’t jeopardize the well being of others in my family.
The point is, we’re not to step in and prevent our teen or adult children from experiencing  the natural consequences of their destructive decisions.
When we intervene, our actions may actually disrupt the lessons God is trying to teach them in order for them to become mature, healthy, functioning adults. Another question to ask is, “what is a healthy response to our child’s destructive behavior and what is an unhealthy response ?”  At times we think our children are our life. We go into all out rescue mode and deplete our finances, retirement accounts, emotions, energy, health and spiritual well being. In reality, the enemy is claiming more victims in his snare by destroying our lives as well.

I am convinced of these things:

  • God loves my child more than I could ever love them.
  • God is more concerned about my child than I could ever be concerned about them.
  • God is able to bring more redemptive change than I could ever bring into their life.
Will I trust my child to Someone who exceeds me in all areas of love and care – who acts only with their best interests at heart? I believe I can. What about you?

Encouragement for Depleted Parents

marathon3Over the last ten years I’ve been on a difficult journey of being the parent of a troubled child. My daughter struggles with substance abuse, self-injury and depression. I compare it to running a race, only it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. I have a goal. It’s simple. I don’t want to give up or quit. I want to stay strong and keep my faith. I want to finish well.

There’s a phenomenon that sometimes happens in marathons. Around the 20th mile, runners begin to burnout. It’s known as hitting the wall. Legs aching, lungs searing, they feel like they can’t take another step. They have nothing left. All reserves are depleted.

I feel like that some days. I want a break – relief from the pain.

In the Boston Marathon the twenty-mile mark is called Heartbreak Hill. The last six miles are a series of hills that steadily climb higher and higher. To persevere and finish the race seems impossible. At this point you can’t look too far ahead, it’s too hard. You feel like you can’t go on.

Have you hit your wall? Have you reached Heartbreak Hill? If so, I want to encourage you. Don’t grow weary or lose heart. When you feel like you can’t go on fix your eyes on God and He will help you take the next step, and then the next. Take one day at a time – one moment at a time.  Keep trusting Him with your child. With this strategy you can keep going. You can make it to the finish line.  And in this kind of marathon crossing the finish line with your faith intact is winning.

With our eyes on the One who conquered Heartbreak Hill we can break through any walls we encounter. We will be okay. Our hope is in Him.

This Bible verse helps me persevere:

“”Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame;
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Hebrews 12:2-3)