Joy for Hurting Parents at Christmas

Are you the parent who can relate to one of these situations? Your son is in jail with an unknown outcome looming in the Your daughter is fresh out of rehab, not the first time, living in your home again. They have a gambling problem that’s slowly destroying their life; they’re in denial that they drink too much, or abuse their prescription meds; they refuse treatment for a brain disorder; they’ve rejected you and want nothing to do with you because of a position you took regarding their choice of lifestyle; they have a same-sex partner; or they’re undergoing medical treatment to become transgender. How can you have joy at Christmas?

Maybe by letting go of expectations about what you have no control over will help. If you can lower what you expect from your child, it can do wonders. Otherwise, frustrations build up. You become hurt and angry. Discussing this with other parents I’ve realized we need to distinguish the difference between goals and desires. This is lead to joy – even during the holidays.

A goal is a desired outcome that we have some control over – “I want to lose 5 lbs in one month”; “I’m want to learn how to play golf”, etc. It’s up to me to make it happen. I am in complete control. I can plan out the steps and when followed I can make it happen.
A desire is something that I have no control over that I hope will happen however, it is outside of my ability to make it happen. It requires the cooperation of someone else in order for it to be accomplished. “I want my child to start going to recovery meetings and see a counselor regularly.” “I want my son to go into rehab.” “I hope it snows on Christmas day next year.” “I want a better job.”
The issue is control! Control is an illusion, isn’t it? I have none – over anything or anyone! There’s nothing I can do to make our desires come true. Ouch!

If I make a desire a into goal, then I will become very frustrated and angry. I set myself up for trouble. It will make me miserable! (and the other person, too)

What we CAN do is pray about the desires we have for our children, give them to God and then focus on taking care of ourselves. What are realistic goals we can do something about? That’s where we should put our focus and energy.


Here are some things you CAN do. They would be good goals:

  • Go see a counselor to work through your feelings
  • Get involved in a support group
  • Educate yourself on the issues your child is dealing with
  • Read uplifting material that will help you cope
  • Get plenty of rest, exercise and eat healthy
  • Join a Bible Study or small group
  • Keep telling your child you love them no matter what they do (but not enable them!) etc.

You will be less angry and frustrated if you do these things. It can even lead you to joy.

Remember the 3 C’s:
I didn’t cause it.
I can’t change it.
I can’t cure it.

O God, give us the courage we need to let go of our desires and give them to you. Help us lower our expectations – it’s so hard to do, especially during a difficult holiday season. Strengthen us to start doing one of the things on this list. As we, lead us to find joy again. We sure need it.

In Jesus’ Name, the Joy-Giver.


This Bible verse is a good one:

“I will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”  (Psalm 145:7)


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6 thoughts on “Joy for Hurting Parents at Christmas

  1. I felt like you were talking to me personally.I know a lot of my expectations cause pain for me and to even THINK I have any control over their lives is ridiculous yet I continue to labor and feel pain over THEIR decisions. As Becky stated above, I lose sight as well and it is especially hard during the holiday season. Praying that God gives me the wisdom to recognize when I have allowed my thinking to go too far… LEAVE it in His capabale hands!