Six Ways Troubled Parents can Stay Emotionally Healthy

Our Hearts are Like Gardens

How can you stay emotionally healthy when your child is troubled? My daughter was losing her battle with addiction, mental illness and self-injury. She was an adult. I had done everything we knew to do to try and save her, but we had no control anymore. However, I wasn’t completely powerless. I found six things that helped—not her, but me.

1) Be honest with yourself.

2) Find a trusted friend who will listen without judging.

3) Talk to a counselor or clergy for extra support and guidance. You might only see them once, but it could make a big difference.

4) Express your feelings in creative ways. Music, art, writing, etc.

Play an instrument, write a song or paint a picture. Make a poster showing what your life was like before and after problems surfaced. Write adjectives or cut out pictures from magazines to make a collage. Compose a poem; write a letter to your child or maybe to God. Try to journal.

5) Communicate with God. Surrender your worries and sadness to Him in prayer. Ask for courage and His healing touch. Go outside and look up – at the stars by night or the clouds by day. Let nature help you connect with your Maker.

6) Turn to the Bible. God will speak through it to comfort, encourage and strengthen your soul. Read it. Ponder it. Meditate on it’s life-giving words. Take them deep into your soul. Reading through Psalms is a favorite of mine.

 “When I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me the strength I need” (Psalm 138:3).

My daughter was living on the streets, sleeping in parks and friends’ cars, out of control in her addiction. I was a mess. Angry and grief-stricken, embarrassed and guilt-ridden, my heart was crushed. Nervous anxiety, insomnia, and a loss of appetite revealed how the stress was affecting me.

One day I heard someone say that our hearts are like gardens. Following that analogy, I realized my heart-garden was full of weeds and thorns. Major work needed to be done to prevent the life from being choked out of it. Neglected any longer, nothing healthy would remain.

Can you relate? Does it feel like trauma and stress are choking the life out of you? Pause a few minutes and take inventory of your heart-garden. Are weeds running rampant? Are the flowers withering from neglect? Does it need a good watering?

Gradually, I had become emotionally unhealthy. If you feel like I did, maybe it’s time to rid yourself of what’s killing you.

But please, don’t despair. With proper care you’re going to be okay. Your heart-garden can be revived!

When I work in my flower beds, the first thing I do is decide what needs to be done. If I’m not sure, I call a professional for expert help. They assess the situation and describe the remedy.

The same is true with our hearts. These are a few weeds I identified in mine:

  • Fear and worry
  • Anger
  • Bitterness and Resentment
  • Lack of forgiveness
  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Self-absorption and self-pity
  • Cynicism

Do you recognize any of them in your heart-garden?

Left unattended, they can take over. When they begin to spread, it’s a warning sign to get busy and do something before they run rampant and cause more damage. The longer we wait, the more work will be required and the more difficult it will be to get rid of them.

Neglect only makes things worse—with flower gardens and with hearts.

Please don’t delay, dear mom or dad. Take a close, honest look at your heart. Are any of these weeds beginning to cause you a problem? Each one has the power to damage – you and the relationship with your child. Please don’t let them.

When you’re ready to begin, you can start with this prayer:

Master Gardner, thank You for caring about the condition of my heart. I’m beginning to see how damaged my emotional well-being has become. Give me the determination I need to do the hard work of weeding my inner garden. Please come quickly to help me. I need You. I’m not strong enough to do this on my own. Don’t let me neglect myself any longer. I don’t want to damage myself or those I love.

In Your mighty name. Amen.


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2 thoughts on “Six Ways Troubled Parents can Stay Emotionally Healthy

  1. My daughter has written me a “no contact” email. We have always had an up and down relationship. I am not sure what triggered this. But I am heartbroken. She has seemed much more distant since she had a concussion 2 years ago. That said, she remains in contact with her father and step-mother. My daughter is in her mid-fifties. I am 74 and live alone so this loss of contact is even more painful. I thought at first her behavior was from her injury but her step-Mom told me she has been to the best hospitals like Johns Hopkins. I am praying not to let my anger over tale me.

    • Eileen, our hearts go out to you. How painful to be pushed away by your daughter like this not knowing what brought it on. It is possible for a traumatic brain injury to cause personality changes, but I’m not sure about concussions. Sometimes these types of injuries have a broad ripple effect, but you did say that your relationship has always had ups and downs.

      Either way, this is heartbreaking, and yes, anger can become a big problem for you. I encourage you to find someone you can talk to about your feelings – keeping the hurt and anger inside can cause depression. Maybe a pastor or clergy person? It’s frustrating to not be able to control on fix the situation, so you have to focus on yourself and your own well-being. Forgiveness will be the key – I have a chapter on this in my book, You Are Not Alone. It could help you a lot.

      I’ve also written several blogs on the topic of forgiveness and emotional health. Do a search on our website on that topic and maybe something in them will help. Again, I’m so sorry for the strained relationship with your daughter. May God comfort you and give you hope that perhaps one day you can be reconciled to one another. “Put your hope in God . . .” Psalm 42:5
      Warmly in Christ,