Have you ever been heartbroken by, or disappointed in one of your children? Have any of your kids messed up, maybe they even embarrassed you in the process? Did they run away, come home with an embarrassing/bizarre tattoo, experiment with drugs, stay out way too late with a boyfriend/girlfriend, wreck their car, maybe they called home for bail? Did they ever tell you they didn’t believe in your God anymore?
It hurts whenever our children exhibit behaviors that contradict their upbringing. It can be devastating when a child you’ve raised pursues a divergent path. During such dark times, it feels like the pain will never dissipate, and the future seems hard to navigate.
One of the greatest mysteries in this life is how godly parents sometimes raise ungodly young adults. You try your hardest, you do “everything right,” and in the end, some children reject everything you ever taught them. It simply doesn’t make sense how some of the nicest, most faithful believers can have problems with their children.
Nothing can be more painful for parents than watching, helplessly, as their children make choices that carry devastating consequences. What can we do as parents when our children take a different path than the one we hoped for?
This isn’t the time to make it about you. If your child is on a self-destructive path, or simply slips up a little, that’s not the time to tell your child about how their actions are reflecting poorly on your reputation. Chances are, they want to develop their own individuality/identity, and this time of acting-out reinforces they don’t care about your reputation anyway. Besides, what are you really concerned about, in the big picture, what’s more important here, your image or their well-being?
This isn’t a time to seclude yourself either. Surround yourself with close friends who will support you spiritually and emotionally. God put certain people in your life for a reason, trust in them, lean on them. You might be surprised to find out they’ve been through some very similar situations with their own children too.
This also isn’t the time to lock yourself in the basement until the storms of life clear up. Go on a mini-vacation, get away for a day or two, and distance yourself from the situation so you can think clearly. When we are anxious our ability to think rationally diminishes drastically; you need to relax and unwind so you can think logically.
This isn’t a time to give up. Don’t lose hope. Keep praying. Everyone has within themselves the potential to change. Prov 22:6 isn’t a promise that your kids will never make mistakes or they will always be faithful, but it is a truism that when you lay the right foundation your kids will have a more stable future and a heritage to fall back on when they need it most, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
This isn’t a time to build walls or lock the door. Don’t punish them forever. Reality and consequences can often be punishment enough. Will you need boundaries? You’ll know, or your close friend will tell you. The point here is trust in your children, that they can “come to their senses.” Keep a lifeline open so when the time is right, you can welcome your prodigal home.
This is a time to reflect on your relationship with God. Think about how you have, in your own ways and in other times, let Him down. No, I’m not talking about your parenting style, I’m not saying you failed as a parent and this is why your kids messed up. I’m talking about you when you blew it in general. How did you want Him to respond when you sinned, when you rebelled against His will, when you disappointed God? You wanted grace. You wanted redemption. You wanted His acceptance and unconditional love -- therefore give away to others what you wanted most and let God be your example, not your excuse.