What to do When Your Child Rejects You:
A Christian Counselor Speaks Out – Part 2
Don and Trisha had always felt uneasy around their daughter Samantha’s boyfriend, Eddie. After the couple married, Samantha interacted less and less with her family and friends. Don and Trisha began to suspect that Eddie was abusing their daughter, but Samantha denied it. When Samantha became pregnant, she abruptly announced that she and Eddie were moving to another state. Don and Trisha were quite concerned for their daughter’s emotional health and safety by this time. They objected strenuously to the move, but were met with a complete cutoff. These parents do not know where their daughter and grandchild are living, and have not had any contact with her for nearly a year and a half.
After starting his junior year, Sean came out to his parents as transgendered. Tad and Angela were taken by surprise by their son, as there had been no obvious warning signs. They attempted to respond compassionately while honoring their Christian values, and offered to help. However, Sean soon became critical, defensive, and eventually enraged toward his parents, especially when they disagreed about anything and indicated that they were struggling with some of his demands. Sean told his parents that he could no longer have a relationship with them and accused them of being bigoted and hateful.
Anne admits that her life was a mess before she met Jesus. At 17, she conceived her daughter, Megan, and dropped out of school to move in with her boyfriend, Deshawn. Deshawn was abusive and after six months Anne packed up Megan and moved in with a friend. She did her best to provide and be a good mother to her. But when Megan was 10, Anne’s new boyfriend, Jake, molested her while Anne was at work one evening. During that particular crisis, Anne was invited to church by a neighbor and accepted the Lord as her savior. She began making many positive changes in her life. Unfortunately, when Megan hit her teen years she became rebellious and blamed her Mom for her difficulties. This eventually resulted in Anne arranging for her daughter to stay with her grandparents for a while – a decision she now regrets. Megan is angry and unforgiving, and refuses to speak to her mother. What’s worse, Anne’s own parents seem to have sided with their granddaughter and support the estrangement.
Although he is a married Christian man, Alex had an affair last year. His wife has since moved out with their 12-year-old son, Benjamin, and it is still uncertain whether the marriage can be repaired. Benjamin has lost respect for his father and refuses to visit him.
The above vignettes are examples of the many different kinds of family circumstances that can wind up turning children away from their parents. When the bond is broken bond between a parent and their child, of any age, this can be one of the most devastating experiences in life. At the outset of parenthood, few moms and dads imagine that such a thing is even possible. But unfortunately, as life unfolds, these precious relationships can suffer unforeseen traumas and breakdown. In , I suggested some important and helpful ways in which parents can respond to a child’s estrangement. These included choosing not to panic, turning the crisis over to the Lord, reaching out to or establishing a support system, and looking to the Scriptures for wisdom, strength, and God’s promises. In this article, I offer five more constructive ways in which to deal with a rejecting child.
Take Practical Steps
Every prudent man acts with knowledge. (Proverbs 13:16)
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)
Depending on the particular circumstances and the age of the child, there may be practical steps that parents need to take, despite their child’s contempt or detachment. Protecting your child from continuing to make destructive choices, despite of their rage and rejection, may entail counseling, social restrictions, changing schools, substance abuse treatment, legal action, a loss of privileges, limiting their access to social media, etc. In some cases, it may even mean removing the child from the home. Do not be an enabler nor an accomplice to wickedness through your failure to discipline. Shielding a person from the consequences of their actions does not usually help them. Yet no two situations are alike, so be prayerful so that you may be led by the Spirit.
These scriptures apply as much to our relationships with our children as they do to our relationships with other adults. Children learn humility and how to seek forgiveness when it is modeled for them. As youngsters become adolescents, they begin to realize just how human and flawed their parents are. When parents deny their own faults or try to cover them up, yet chastise their children for theirs, this can result in a loss of respect and trust, and resentment may form. Sincerely and clearly apologize for anything wrong that you may have said or done. Of course, apologies that are not accompanied by change are worthless. So take the time to self-reflect and commit yourself to correcting any issues on your side of the fence that have negatively impacted your relationship with your child.
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18)
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Confessing a wrong attitude, cutting words, or hurtful behavior to a child can soften his or her heart to forgive and be more receptive. Even if you do not see the result right away, this keeps your heart clean, shows your child the appropriate way to deal with personal sin, and can lead to reconciliation down the road.
Continue to Reach Out & Show Love
…with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love… (Ephesians 4:2)
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you… (Matthew 5:44)
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
No matter how disobedient your child is, or how terribly they treat you, continue to find creative ways in which to communicate love and your desire for a healthy relationship. A phone call, text, or letter can convey love in the midst of a difficult relationship. Physical touch and other nonverbal forms of communication may speak volumes about how you feel, despite the rift between you. Walking in love does not mean accommodating abuse or sin, and in extreme cases it may not be wise to spend time physically together until change occurs. Pray and seek God’s wisdom concerning ideas and timing, bathe every interaction with prayer, and seek to be led by the Spirit.
Wait on the Lord
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him. (Isaiah 64:4)
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret – it only causes harm. (Psalm 37:7-8)
Numerous scriptures instruct believers to wait on the Lord. The ability to wait is a valuable skill that requires faith and patience, which causes you to be complete, lacking nothing (James 1:4), and to receive what God has promised you. (Hebrews 6:12)
There is no way to know how long you will have to wait. But what is the alternative? If you give up, then a poor outcome is likely, if not certain. There is a saying that goes: “Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle.”
Live Your LifeIt is important that you keep on living in the midst of your trial. Often, when we have problems with one child, we can hurt our other children, our spouse, our friends and family, and even God due to our preoccupation, moods, and neglect of them. We may struggle with fear, anger, or depression and be tempted to shirk our responsibilities, or to numb ourselves with food, alcohol, or drugs. Letting go and letting God frees you to focus on moving forward and to experience a semblance of peace as you wait for Him to work in your situation.
You will know that you are trusting God and have effectively turned the care of your child over to Him when you see yourself living normally. Pangs of hurt, anger, or fear may flare up, but they will not take you down.
How Christian Counseling Can Help You to Stand
Isolation is a common response to emotional pain, but it isn’t helpful. If you are dealing with a breach in relationship with your child, you need to let others support you and help you. A Christian counselor will listen with empathy as you share your story and pain, and help you to navigate through the stages of grief. Unlike secular counseling, however, Christian counseling will direct you to God’s capable hands and the comfort of His promises. If I am privileged to work with you, I will help you to clear your head, tune in to the Spirit, and implement response strategies such as those I have presented in this article.
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