Parent pain - postscript

Just wanted to add a little to the guest post on parent pain.  My friend is too modest to tell you about all the things that she's done right  - perhaps pain blinds us all to that.  So I felt the need to follow up with some things I've observed from her life and from others going through things like this.  I know there are differing views on how to handle "wayward" kids so feel free to disagree with me.  I am certainly not an expert - just an observer. And a friend to those in such crises.  What I have to share is simply some conclusions I've drawn from these experiences.  Not an iron clad promise of results.

1.  Principles, not preferences
What I mean by this point is that we need to be sure that what we are so grieved about is truly worth being grieved about.  Is it a matter of principle, of conviction, of absolute right and wrong?  Or is it really a matter of personal preferences?  For instance, if my teenager decided to indulge in premarital sex or alcohol, this would definitely be a matter of principle.  This is clearly wrong and I would respond decisively.  (Note I did not say "react dramatically" but rather "respond decisively".  Big difference)  A lot of other things really might be a matter of personal preference instead.  Even if they feel like matters of principle.  Things like hairstyles or clothing choices or dating decisions mostly fall into the "personal preference" category. Things that we can afford to overlook or bend on.  For real.

If we as parents are wringing our hands or issuing edicts or altering our parental relationship, let's be really really really sure that the matter in question is one of principle.  Not personal preference.  I believe very strongly in standing by convictions.  Truly I do.  Not compromising on things that we stake our life on.  Not at all. And I think we can be justified to define our convictions, share our principles (and the reasons behind them). It's just that I am inclined to think that we oughta have relatively few things in that category....and even when a kid is trampling our principles, we can still respond with love.

2.  Perspective
This is such a powerful concept.  Oh my goodness, it's potent.  Perspective means that we can see somebody else's point.  (Note:  seeing does not have to mean agreeing -- just means that we can see it!!  The ability to do this is like an indelible stamp of validity.  Not having it, well, relationships without it are trite, weak, and ineffectual.)  Having perspective means we value the other person enough to try and understand (again - note that I didn't say "agree") what and why they feel as they do. This might be called empathy.  And it's a game changer.  Trust me.

Perspective also means that we possess enough wisdom and maturity to take a long view.
 Maybe, just maybe, some of the things that we parents get hyped up about really won't matter in the long run.  What a kid does at 15 does not necessarily have to define them.  (Unless, of course, the parents blow the whole thing up and ruin the relationship and the kid never is allowed to move past it.  Then it surely would define them) Parental memory can be a tricky thing -- seems like we either conveniently forget all the mistakes of our past or we so fearfully focus on trying to be sure our kid avoids every single pit we fell into that we lack perspective.  Guess what - no matter how perfectly we try to parent, our kids are gonna make some mistakes.  Perspective helps us - and them - be OK with that.  In fact, some of the most powerful bonding possible can take place as we help our child learn how to get up after a fall.

And perspective means that our response to things we consider crises is not over the top dramatic.  (For me, it means I just need to take a chill pill.) Some of the greatest possible damage can be done when we react in earth shattering ways.  Before you encounter one of those heart-wrenching parenting moments, purpose right now that you will take plenty of time to consider your response before you act.  And spend time and energy right now to fill your heart up with love and wisdom and gentleness and grace and mercy so that, when you get squeezed, that's what will come out.

Oh, and in case you're getting this info after you've erupted and damage has been done, there are things that can be done to repair the devastation.  Admission of wrong (yours), asking for forgiveness(theirs), and correcting the course.

3.  Preserve the relationship
Above all else, preserve the relationship.  Yes, I know about tough love and church discipline and I am all for it.  But I believe with all my heart that the times to employ those are rare.  And I believe that the best thing a rebellious kid can have is the assurance of a parent that loves them no matter what.  Not agrees with their choices but loves them in spite of them.  I don't think it means you let them do drugs or sleep with their boyfriend in your home (back to "principles" - #1).  But neither do I think it means you ignore their birthday or forbid your other kids from contact with them or exclude them from family times.  For crying out loud, what you want is a chance to influence them for good and it's helpful to have time with them to do that!! Christ is our example.  He never overlooked or excused sin but He sure made it a point to hang out with the sinners.  And I am so thankful for that!

If your kid is currently turning his or her back on all you hold dear, I know you still love them....but they might not know that.  Be sure they do.  Use words and actions and whatever else at your disposal to tell them you love them.  Kindness goes a long way to healing hurts.  And the hope is that one day he/she will come to his/her senses and you'll be in a position to positively impact them.  If you don't preserve the relationship now, that day's likely never gonna come.

And, it's just my opinion, but I don't think that prodigal son would've come home ever unless he knew he'd be allowed to stay.

4.  Prevail
Don't quit doing all the things you know that are right and good.  From enjoying your other children and your friends to exercise to hobbies to just plain living life - keep on keeping on.  Don't let a parenting crisis derail your life.  One dear friend of mine shared with me that parenting through these storms really wears you out.  One of the thing that has kept her going is that she and her husband are "on the same page".  What good advice.  What really good advice.  So many times I've seen a crisis with a child wreak havoc on a marriage or the other children.  Do whatever you can to guard against that. Go see a good counselor.  Talk things out with a close friend. In private. (I personally don't suggest making your kid's issues a matter of public knowledge for everybody and their sister to gossip about but that's just my opinion). But don't retreat into a shell and forfeit all the good around you.

Never never never give up on your kid but don't let this crisis define your existence.  The rest of your world needs you.

5.  Pray 
This one's a no-brainer, right?  Sure.  Except that it's not.  We can often fall into the trap of doing everything we can think of except that.  We should all tattoo this truth onto our hearts - we are powerless to change people.  Only God can do that.  Talk to Him about it.  Often. He's on your side.  And your child's side.  You don't have to beg Him to act - He wants what's best for your child even more than you do!  Just pour out your heart to Him.  Cry out to Him.  Lean on Him.  Continuously. 

  And, what we often find, is that prayer changes us as much as (if not more than) it changes the situation.  Or the other person.

If you're in a parenting crisis of any kind,  my heart breaks for you.  If you want to confidentially tell somebody about it, I'm here.  I'll listen.  And pray with you and cry with you and hurt with you.
And, I'll believe for you until you can believe for yourself.