As parents we have a special relationship with our children. We have a deep emotional connection along with a strong sense of responsibility. When we bring our child into the world we eagerly watch them grow under our loving guidance. We are full of hopes and dreams for them. Then, all of that appears to be shattered when we realize they may be in trouble with drugs, alcohol, self harm, an eating disorder, porn, same sex identity issues, or a mental illness.
We try everything in our power to stop their behaviors….we forgive, make excuses, cover up, smooth out & want to believe everything they tell us. When our first attempts at changing them or even denying their behaviors don’t work we try exercising our authority by making demands or controlling them…..but nothing we say or do works.
If our child lives at home we are sickened by the daily experience of living with unacceptable behavior. We listen anxiously for them to come in at night, or sneak out at night. We fear the phone ringing in the middle of the night, that it might mean disaster or tragedy. We worry about the affects of their behaviors on their health, relationships, school, jobs, or if they will get arrested – their future in general.
Our constant companions are fear, sadness, frustration and anger. We are afraid of all the what-ifs. We are so angry with them, their friends, and ourselves. We’re full of guilt and shame. Some of my worst anguish came with my sense of guilt. I would ask myself the painful questions: “What did I do wrong? How could I have prevented this? It must be my fault, or how could my child be this way? What should I do now?” And the sadness — over what has happened, over all that is lost and what never will be.
Are we supposed to stop caring what happens to our children? Of course not! But we can become so obsessed with their problems and so afraid for their welfare that many of us neglected all our other relationships, including ourselves. We need to learn to take care of ourselves and let go of our anguish over our children. We can do this by stopping our nagging, scolding and criticizing. We need to stop reacting, stop trying to change them, stop trying to protect them and stop making their problems our problems. Wow, that’s a mouthful of challenging things that sound so easy to do, yet . . . painfully difficult. I know this firsthand.
This skill of letting go is critical. It allows our children to experience the results of their actions and can actually save their lives. We need to learn what responsibilities are ours and what are theirs. We need to resist the temptation to find solutions for their troubles. Let them own what is theirs and we will own what is ours! We can learn how!
We need to put into practice a courageous love. Letting our children become responsible for their own problems. Remember, they aren’t just our children. They are God’s children, too. For me, remembering this gives me the strength and peace to “let go and let God” work in my daughter’s life. By doing this, I can learn to live with an unsolved problem and you can, too. Even if they end up in rehab or in jail (or worse), God can use it to turn them around. He can use it to bring good in both their live and in ours!
We also need to learn to let go and release them with love. This helps us regain our serenity. I know it’s not easy to do, but for us to be healthy ourselves we must learn how. Sometimes our love can actually smother them. Our kind of caring isn’t always helpful, so we must let go and detach. We must give them back to God and ask Him to take care of them, continually communicating an unconditional loving attitude. This kind of love is powerful!
We need to learn how to trust more so we will worry less. When we place our trust in God (our Higher Power) and turn our anxieties and our child over to Him, we can live one day at a time. We find relief. We do not have to be chained to the despair we have known. We can know that whatever happens – whether our child is ever “OK” or not – we will be alright. We must surrender our children and ourselves to God, then we can have peace. We can find serenity again because we are both in good hands!
I also can’t encourage support groups enough when you are living with an unsolved problem. They give you a safe place to process your feelings with others who understand and won’t look down on you. You find the help you need as you begin applying what you are learning. As you hear others share who are a few steps ahead of you it encourages you to take those scary steps yourself. If they can do it, then you can, too! Al-Anon groups are great and Celebrate Recovery is, too. You can google them to see if they are in your area.
You can learn to live with an unsolved problem in your child’s life as you stop trying to protect them, determine to show courageous love, let go and let God work. For me it always seems to get back to trust. I need to trust God more and more with all the problems in their lives that I can’t solve. Put your child in His hands and know He is working, even though you cannot see it now.