A word to the Royal Family’s Newest Parents

I am one of millions who watched the TV news specials the night your royal baby boy was born. It was almost 31 years ago, but I remember well howMimi's visit to help the new parents 027 that felt – how wonderful it was when my husband and I had our first child, also a son. When our two daughters were born, 4 and 2 years later, it was just as wonderful. I was blissfully happy and very unaware of the trials that lay ahead on my parenting journey. My children are all adults now. With one of them it was a very rocky road. These are a few things I wish someone had told me.

– This child you fell madly in love with  the moment you laid eyes on him, may one day reject your love and break your heart. He may even tell you he  hates you and that your decisions ruined his life.

– Your child can easily become your sole focus, the center of your world. They can even become an idol. You begin to need them to do well and excel to be able to feel good about yourself. Too much of your personal fulfillment comes through them. Don’t let that happen. Your value and worth are not determined by your child’s success, or lack of it. If they falter, where does that leave you?

– Your job as a parent will change when he turns eighteen, your role will change from teacher/nurturer and disciplinarian, to adviser and friend. Prepare yourself for that. It will come all too soon – although there will be days you long for it, when the time comes you will grieve. You may even feel lost for a bit until you find new direction.

– He won’t need you as much when he becomes an adult (even an older teenager), but you can always have a place in his life as mom and dad. In many ways your job as parent never ends. However, you’ll have to work to find ways to connect with him as an adult. Learn about his hobbies and interests, educate yourself about them, show interest in what he likes. It will draw him to you.

– While he’s growing up, if you ever discover he’s being bullied, get involved immediately. Come to his aid and don’t leave him to solve the problem on his own. Do whatever it takes to stop the bullying and protect him from its damage. Statistics have shown the long term affects of bullying on a young, developing child can be devastating to their over-all emotional development well into adulthood.

– From this day forward you will be more vulnerable to pain – his pain. It’s like you’re walking around with your heart on the outside of your chest – easily wounded and broken by whatever wounds or breaks him.  I’m so sorry to tell you this. It is a harsh reality.

– Above all, be sure to tell him how much you love him. Over and over again. Every day. He can’t hear it enough, even though you may think it unnecessary because of all the ways you show him. He still needs to hear it. Especially tell him there is nothing he could ever do that would cause you to love him any less or any more than you always have. No matter what. One day he may really need to know it – to have it stored firmly in his memory bank to retrieve after a failure or two. I promise you will never regret it if you do this.

This is my list. It could be much longer. I find it hard to believe I’m a grandparent now!  God bless you and I wish you the best as you seek to raise your child the best that you can in a very challenging world.

I’d like to leave you with an encouraging word from the best guidebook of all time, the Bible:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. ” (James 1: 5 NIV)

*The photo is my son holding his first child, my first grandchild. Precious.

Three Things Hurting Parents Need to Hear

222When I was in so much pain from my 19-year-old daughter’s destructive behaviors,  I thought I couldn’t bear it one more day. Death would have been easier — hers or mine.  Being the mom of  a child who was on the fast track to killing herself with alcohol, drugs and cutting (including other dangerous behaviors) I was overwhelmed with guilt and shame. Then I attended a conference for hurting parents where I heard three wonderful statements that would change my perspective and help me cope.  They are known as ” The 3 C’s”  from Al Anon:

1)  You didn’t Cause it! It’s NOT your fault – unless you encouraged your child or aided them in their self-destruction.

2)  You can’t Change it!  Stop trying – you’ll just make yourself crazy and them, too. They don’t want to change – not yet.

3)  You can’t Cure it!  You can’t fix them. They have to want to get better. You can’t force it on them.

When I heard this it was like I had just put my feet in a cool mountain stream on an oppressively hot summer day.  It was too good to be true and so freeing. I have repeated the 3 C’s to myself often in the past 8 years. They’ve helped me keep my feet on solid ground when overwhelming emotions tried to creep back in and pull me down.

They address the lies we parents tend to believe. I thought my daughter’s problems were somehow my fault – if I was a better parent this would never have happened; I should have done this or that – hog wash, as we say in the south. No parent is perfect. Our children have a free will to make their own choices. And if they’re struggling with mental illness, it’s still not our fault. Even if it is an inherited problem, we never set out to ruin their life. We need not accept all the blame. That won’t help them or us.

I also thought I could change her and make all her problems go away. I thought I had some control over her life. Then I realized that control is an illusion. We have none (of course we do have some if they’re under eighteen). We have to accept that we aren’t that powerful. We can’t change, fix or cure our children any more than we can change a daisy into a rose, or an apple into an orange. It’s not possible.

Once you begin to believe these three things are true, you’ll begin to relax and let go of guilty feelings. I did. Now I accept the fact that I’m not in control, but I believe I know Who is and it’s God. He has complete control over everyone an everything, therefore, I can trust Him with my daughter’s life. I can rest in His love for her and find the peace I was lacking.

Go to al-anon.alateen.org for more helpful information from this world-wide organization. Their principles can help with any problem you have no control over, not just someone’s alcohol problem. When you think about it the only thing we do have any control over is ourselves!

Heavenly Father, help us stop believing lies that only add to our feelings of guilt and shame. Instead, help us believe the truth that while we are powerless to change them or cure them, You can. Help us trust you to work in our child’s life where we cannot. Amen.

One Way to Love Your Wayward Child

elephantsWhen you listen well to your son or daughter (or to anyone), you’re loving them. You are giving them the gift of yourself and of your time. Time is a valuable commodity. It’s one you can’t get back. Once you use it, it’s gone. So giving your time to someone is very valuable. Listening well can improve communication by leaps and bounds. Many strained relationships have improved just because of this skill.

If your child is making poor choices and dangerous decisions on a regular basis, struggles with mental illness or their sexual identity, it can be very difficult for you to even want to sit down and listen to them. If they share upsetting things you’d rather not know about or problems you have no solutions for (and you shouldn’t be solving them anyway, especially if they’re an adult – no enabling, remember!), these are a few responses you could try:

– I’m so sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine what this must be like for you.

– So you’re saying, ” . . . . . . . .  Is that right?” (Reflect back to them what you hear them saying. Repeat it the best you can. We’re often wrong. This gives them a chance to clarify.)

– That must be really hard, but I’m confident you will figure it out.

– I’m sorry that happened. Thank you for telling me about it/sharing with me.

– Tell me more about that. How do you feel about it?

– What do you think you should do?

– Boy, that’s a big challenge you’re facing. I’ll be praying for you. (Stay strong and be careful not to offer to help if you have decided to stop “helping” because you realized it’s not really helping – it’s only keeping them from experiencing consequences and keeping them too dependent on you. If this is a phone conversation, pray for the courage to say a short prayer for them on the phone. Ask if it’s okay first. They will appreciate that you asked and they just might surprise you by saying, “yes!”)

– May I share with you a few ideas I have about that? (Be sure to always ASK FIRST before giving any advice or suggestions, too. They usually don’t want it. Doing this sends the message that you don’t think they’re capable. Then they feel invalidated. More trouble. You probably never even knew what you did wrong.)

With God’s wisdom and help there is hope for us. We can improve our listening skills and in the end make our child feel more loved.

Lord, you are the expert Communicator. You gave us two ears, yet only one mouth. Listening might be more important than talking. Teach us to listen twice as much as we speak. With your Divine help we have hope that we can learn to communicate better, not only with our children, but with everyone. May they notice how much we’re trying and may they feel more loved because of our efforts. 


Trayvon Martin-Zimmerman Trial’s Message to Parents in Pain

The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman trial is over. Many people all over the country are upset about the outcome. There have been riots in some cities. No matterpain what your opinion is, one thing is true: George Zimmerman’s life will never be the same, neither will the family of Trayvon Martin. They have this in common along with brokenhearted parents. These parents have children who are abusing substances, are in and out of jail, live with a mental illness, cut or burn themselves, have an eating disorder, and on and on.  Like the Martin and Zimmerman families, they feel like they’ve been living in a nightmare. They’ve been deeply impacted by horrific experiences. Hurting mothers and fathers have also been changed forever. Does that describe you? It describes me.

What has changed us? Shock. Grief and loss. Shattered dreams. Fear and anxiety. Ongoing stress and strain. Many pain-filled days. Sleepless nights. Condemnation of others. Seeing your child turn into a stranger before your very eyes, changed into a person you don’t know anymore. Standing by helplessly watching your son destroy his life. Being powerless to save your daughter from hurting herself. We sure are different from who we once were. But it doesn’t have to be all bad. Surprisingly, some of the changes can be good.

My experience has been that now I am stronger – emotionally and spiritually, wiser, more informed on issues I previously knew nothing about, more compassionate, more empathetic toward others who hurt, closer to my family members, and I have a new focus for my work – to encourage other hurting parents (along with my husband).

What is the main thing we all need?  Prayer.

Lots of prayer.

For inner healing.

To still offer unconditional love.

For Hope.

Comfort.

Strength.

Courage.

Peace.

Forgiveness.

To take one day at a time.

O God, please help us all. We need you so much. We can’t do this without you. Thank you that with You, good can come from all the bad we have experienced. Indeed, our lives have changed forever, but  . . .

“. . . in all things God works for the good of those who love him . . .”  (Romans 8:28)

Amen.

Hurting Parents Feel Crazy!

If you are a parent who is hurting due to the self-destructive choices your child is making, or if they suffer from a mental illness and the anxietyrepercussions of these things are turning your life upside down, then this blog is for you.  Does your child have an eating disorder or is cutting themselves yet refuses to talk to a counselor? You may feel like you can’t bear it one more day. Are they abusing alcohol or drugs while living in your home? You may feel like you are going crazy!  Are they refusing to take medication for depression or a mood disorder (i.e. bipolar, etc.)?  You may feel like you need to start taking meds yourself (maybe you already do), or be put in the hospital. Do they keep getting in trouble with the law for DUIs, shoplifting, possession of or selling drugs, expecting you to bail them out and pay for a lawyer? You may feel like you can’t take it any more or you will lose it.

Everything you’re feeling is normal. You aren’t losing your mind. You’re not a bad parent. It’s not your fault. But there’s something you need to hear.

Six Things to Do When Parenting a “Firecracker” Child

statue of libertyHas your parenting experience felt like trying to control an unpredictable firecracker? Did your child set off emotional fireworks on a regular basis bringing chaos to the family? On July 4th many people celebrated by setting off fireworks they purchased because they enjoy them, while many live with fireworks of a different kind they didn’t choose and they don’t enjoy one bit. These fireworks are caused by their child’s rebellious behavior when they engage in various forms of destructive and dangerous choices. They’re drinking too much, smoking pot, using drugs of various kinds, getting in trouble with the law, cutting or burning themselves, having sex or attracted to the same-sex. All contrary to the way you raised them, violating the values you tried so hard to instill in them – breaking your heart.

So what do you do with this firecracker? How do you survive these fireworks without getting burned?

1. You get them help if they’re under 18 and are still in your home. Take them to a counselor or a psychiatrist, maybe even go yourself. You need all the help you can get.

2. You find a support group and/or talk with a trusted friend. You need emotional strength from others who care and understand to help process your feelings.

3. You make sure you exercise, simplify your life and get plenty of rest. You’re under so much stress and strain – you need to stay healthy.

4. You don’t play the guilt and shame game. Take it easy on yourself. Remember Al-Anon’s 3 C’s: You didn’t cause it. You can’t change it. You can’t cure it.

5. You hold on to hope, give them back to their Maker and keep trusting Him with your child.

6. Pray, pray, pray. Never give up asking for complete healing, restoration and reconciliation. God can do anything.

I know these fireworks are shaking your world, but you can get through this without permanent damage. If you do these things you will get through it a lot better. I hope you enjoyed the fireworks you saw this year, even the firecrackers.  Remember, the ones caused by your child won’t last forever even though it feels like they will.

God’s message to you from the Bible is: “He sent His Word and healed them and delivered them from their destruction.”  (Psalms 107:20)