What to Do When Your Child Rejects You
A Christian Counselor Speaks Out
Patrick and Jenna have raised their 14-year-old daughter Jenna in a stable, loving, Christian home. In spite of this, they have learned that Jenna is using drugs and alcohol, and is socializing with a rough crowd at school. She has run away several times, refuses help, and at this point is non-communicative with her parents and the other adults who have reached out to her.
Jocelyn is a divorced mother of three. Her oldest two children, Max and Shawna, are from her first marriage and the youngest, Margo, is from her second marriage. Jocelyn subsequently married and divorced again. Max, in particular, had very poor relationships with his step-fathers and became very bitter and angry toward his mother. Not long after moving in with his biological father, he cut off all communication with Jocelyn and even changed his cell phone number. It has been three painful years since she has heard from him, although he lives less than two miles away.
Tyrone lost his wife to cancer when Destiny was 12. Four years later he met and married a wonderful Christian woman, Talisha, and she moved in with her two sons. Tyrone had believed that a two-parent household was best for children, and that Destiny would benefit from having a warm and loving female in the home. But he was not prepared for the inherent difficulties of a blended family. Within a year, Destiny started getting into trouble, getting poor grades, shoplifting, partying, and having sex with boys. Shortly after turning 17, Destiny ran off with her boyfriend and severed all contact with her family.
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 for Megan and be a good mother to her. But when Megan was 10, Anne’s new live-in 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.
Losing a Child Emotionally
These stories represent some of the myriad possibilities of things that can go wrong in a relationship between a parent and a child. Few would argue that losing a child to premature death is one of the most agonizing experiences a parent can face. But losing a child emotionally can be almost as alarming and painful, particularly when the outcome is uncertain and the waiting seems endless.
What can a loving Christian parent do when their child has turned his or her back on them? In this article, I offer a few suggestions that can help you through such difficult times.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord
Who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
This is square one. You need to make a conscious decision to stay calm and look to Him. Remember that you are not alone in this situation – you have a big and present God.
Turn it Over to God
…for we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what todo, but our eyes are upon You. (2 Chronicles 20:12)
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
I once read that we (parents) only have control over our children to the extent that they “buy in.” When children are very young we have physical control because we are stronger and can overpower them. We often also have considerable psychological control because they trust us, accept our influence, and often readily obey us out of respect for our authority. But if you have a rebelling and rejecting child on your hands right now – whether youth or adult – then you are probably becoming aware of how little control you really have. Depending on the age of the child, you may be able to enforce some restrictions on their access, location, and behavior, but you cannot control the attitude, heart, and choices of another person.
When your child is in trouble, makes foolish choices, or when you have made a horrible mistake that has hurt your relationship with your child, I recommend that you fall on your face before God and humbly give the whole situation to Him. Admit that you are powerless and boldly seek His wisdom, intervention, and supernatural peace to enable you cope.
You will probably need to do this more than once.
Access Your Support System
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:19)
Division between a parent and child for any reason usually amounts to a war – a spiritual war. And a war cannot be fought without soldiers, so gather your troops. The members of the body of Christ are commanded to care for and support one another in their trials. Do not allow your guilt, shame, embarrassment, or any other barrier to keep you from appropriately sharing your heartache and need with those who can support or help you. Meet with your pastor or other church leaders, get some professional counseling for yourself, alert the prayer chain, find people who will commit themselves to partnering with you in intercession, and allow supportive family members and friends to share your struggle. The Bible indicates that there is exponential power in numbers (see Leviticus 26:8 and Deuteronomy 32:30).
The Bible teaches us that our weapons of war are not physical, but spiritual. The main role for you and your support system is to believe and to pray. The rest of the battle belongs to God (2 Chronicles 20:15).
Go to the Word
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
Norvel Hayes, an internationally-renowned Bible teacher and the author of How to Live and Not Die, encourages his readers to look up scriptures that cover their case and to boldly claim them in Jesus’ Name when they are faced with dire circumstances. Wrestling with unbelief is a universal struggle, but the Bible teaches us that we can grow our faith and trust when we continually hear His Word.
God’s Word is truth. It is powerful, eternal, creative, effective, and unchanging. When we meditate on the Word day and night, binding it to our hearts, then it will also be in our mouths. The Bible says that when we speak the Word in faith, we shall have what we say (Mark 11:23-24).
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 can take. Protecting your child from continuing in their destructive choices, despite 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 mean removing the child from the home. You should not be an enabler nor an accomplice to wickedness through your failure to discipline. Shielding a person from the consequences of their actions usually does not help them. Yet no two situations are alike, so be prayerful that you may 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. It causes you to be complete, lacking in 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.”
Christian Counseling Can Help You to Stand
The loss of a positive connection with a child you love is a devastating experience, irrespective of whether the loss is temporary or permanent. The knife is twisted with each birthday or holiday missed, every violation of trust, hateful word spoken, stony silence, or disappearance. If you are experiencing a physical and/or emotional separation from your minor or adult child, it is natural that you will grieve – regardless of the eventual outcome. Christian counseling provides an emotionally safe, supportive environment in which you can talk about what you are going through and process through all five stages of grief and loss. In addition, a counselor will encourage you to 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, or our friends and family due to our preoccupation and neglect of them. We may struggle with fear, anger, or depression and be tempted to shirk our responsibilities or seek relief in destructive activities, such as abusing 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. Working with a Christian counselor can help you to identify pragmatic steps to take in order to safeguard yourself and others, as well as to develop a spiritual battle plan.
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