Five Things a Parent Can Do to Point the Way for Their Troubled Child

I Can't Do This Anymore!

These comments were shared by Linda Dahl*, the mom of an addict, after her daughter’s relapse. Linda vulnerably shared insights she’s gained along the way. Even if your child doesn’t struggle with an addiction, I think there could be something beneficial here for you.

Mom: “So you have a choice now, you can give me the rest of the dope, I’ll drive you to a 12 step meeting where you get a temporary sponsor and agree to go to meetings every day you are here. Or you’ll have to find somewhere else to stay.

Because I can’t do this anymore.

I’m done.

Daughter: (brief silence, broken by weeping) “Okay.”

Mom: (also crying) “I’m so proud to have you for my daughter. You’re smart and funny and talented. This is a blip and I’ll support you every step of the way. Relapse happens, especially with young people. I know you’ve relapsed and I’m so very sorry. I know how hard you’ve worked to get well.”

Daughter: (silence)

Mom: “So let’s go get rid of the dope and find out when the meeting starts.”

It’s been six years and she’s been clean and sober since. It could have gone either way, but I wasn’t going to get angry or try and persuade her.

I was simply going to point the way.

I’m boundlessly grateful that she chose to get well, but I’m also humbled by all the mistakes I made, trying to fix her, minimizing the problem because it was too painful to look at.

“We have a veil over our eyes when it comes to our children” a woman with a son in recovery once said. I believe this “veil” was baked into our DNA.

As their parents we can’t help it. It’s just too hard and too painful to face the truth and admit what’s happened to our fairy tale dreams.

But to truly help my addicted daughter, I needed to face the bad dream squarely. Because what I do either helps keep her sick or nudges her toward health.

She had to make the decision to get well.

I had to learn to let her.


We at Hope for Hurting Parents agree.

I see five things in this mom’s story that we can do to nudge our children toward healing and health:

  1. Set our boundaries and keep them.
  2. Continue to speak words of blessing and affirmation over our children. They need to hear it especially if they’ve strayed far.
  3. Stop minimizing their problems. Have realistic expectations, admitting our mistakes. We’re not perfect either.
  4. Stop using anger, guilt or any other persuasive tactic to try and force them to change.
  5. Point the way to health, then get out of the way. Let God work.


God of Compassion,

This is H.A.R.D. You know how we’re wired as moms and dads, grandparents and step-parents. We want to rescue and protect and enable because we’re too afraid of letting our children fall. Forgive us for the many mistakes we’ve made.

Help us do what feels so contrary to our parenting instincts. Make us willing to do hard things. Give us resolve to stand firm on healthy boundary lines, not wavering or crumbling when fears assault us.

We really don’t want to minimize or try to fix our child anymore. We know now that we can’t, but we’ve sure tried. O Father, often we’ve asked you to remove the veil from their eyes, not realizing we had one over our own. Would you gently remove it and help us face the truth head on? We’ll hold on tight to your strong hands because it’s not easy. How we thank you that you haven’t left us to do this alone.

In the name of Jesus who faced death on our behalf, so that we could know his indwelling life to carry us through our most grueling times. Amen.


What have you done to help point the way for your troubled child? Please share!


* Linda Dahl wrote Loving Our Addicted Daughters Back to Life.


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