My wife and I were clueless when we began our journey of parenting a rebellious teen. An endless amount of information was available on how to raise great kids, but I found little help when it came to hard issues … like the ones we were facing. Addiction and mental illness were strange to me, and I had never even heard of self-harm or cutting. Many of you are dealing with many other hard issues.
While I don’t cherish my time spent on that difficult road, the lessons I learned there have become treasures—similar to panning in a river for gold. I found something of great value.
Four nuggets I gleaned during my years of difficult parenting:
1. Prioritize Relationships
In the midst of the struggles with our daughter, my wife and I had to take a serious look at the relational dynamics involved. We were battling with our child. When push came to shove we had to make it clear to her that there would never be a time when she would take a higher priority than our marriage.
We were a married couple before our children came along. If things went as we hoped, our kids would be on their own again one day. We would return to the way our lives were before children, the way God intended, when we made the covenant before him and our friends.
Not all hurting parents have a spouse to go through these trials with. Alone, with no support in the home to help share the load, is extra hard. My wife and I are together, so I can’t speak personally to this situation, but imagine what life would be like if your child was grown, functional, and on their own? Perhaps you can make that goal a priority.
Other key relationships impacted by a rebellious teen or adult child are the other children in the family—their brothers and sisters. We didn’t want our son and other daughter to be negatively affected by the turmoil their sister was causing. We also didn’t want them to think too badly about her. Therefore, we explained the situation by using an analogy they could identify with: a broken bone.
Broken bones need more care and attention than the rest of the body – both of our girls had broken an arm one summer, so they could relate. In time, the injury would mend. Things wouldn’t always be the way they were, but giving more time and attention where healing was required, didn’t mean other parts were any less important or valuable. Likewise, while their sister was getting more attention than they were, we assured them it was temporary.
We loved them just as much as we loved her. A lot of effort was made to be sure we didn’t miss their significant events. Later, we planned time to do something that special—our younger daughter chose fly-fishing in Colorado.
2. Triage the Calendar
Being the parent of a rebellious, troubled child is hard work. A lot of time, attention, energy, and resources are demanded: mental, emotional, and financial. Sometimes we’re so exhausted we’re no good to anyone for anything. We’re spent. Work performance suffers and friends wonder what’s happened to us.
At this point we took a closer look at our calendars and commitments. We decided to scale back. What could we remove? What could be drastically reduced? What could we step away from, at least temporarily?
Anything nonessential to our livelihood demanded serious reconsideration. Our work couldn’t change, but there were assignments we could ask someone else to pick up for little while: the small group we led at church could be led by someone else. We took a leave of absence. Social commitments were cancelled. Events were rescheduled to a better time when we had more energy to engage.
The other side of “triaging our calendar” – the way an EMT assesses a medical emergency – was to choose activities that would regenerate and refresh us. Sleep is vital to our well-being. Plenty of times we didn’t get much – either because we were dealing with an emergency or because we were lying awake worried. Sleep deprived, we couldn’t think clearly or make good decisions. More susceptible to accidents and brain fog, naps became essential.
We researched and found two ways to help us fall asleep and fend off worry—as much as possible: we listened to relaxing music and scripture, or we meditated on either the twenty-third Psalm or The Lord’s Prayer.
A few more ways we found refreshment:
- We took walks along a scenic path to appreciate nature; helped slow down racing our thoughts.
- We spent extended time alone with God to pray and meditate on his Word. This became a priority. We found places to go: a park, a peaceful walking area, a room in our church, etc. This became a time we looked forward to at least once a quarter, more often when needed.
- Work these into your calendar. You’ll be glad you did.
Dear God, please help me prioritize my relationships and triage my calendar so that I can endure this hard journey in a better way. By faith, I’ll walk the path you’ve laid before me.
I look to you. Amen.
How have you prioritized your relationships or triaged your calendar? If you have and it helped, please share about your experience to help someone else
Coming next week – Part 2 on Nov. 13th. The author of this series is Tom Yohe.
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*And if you haven’t already read it, you might like her book, You Are Not Alone, endorsed by Dr. James Dobson, Family Life Ministries, and Focus on the Family. Available through our website or wherever fine books are sold.