When Parenting is Tough
The Passion play put on by the youth group at church was gripping and emotional and raw. It left little to the imagination. I saw several people wiping tears from their eyes. I’ve watched this play several times over the years and it never loses its meaning and the strong emotions it evokes. I watched Mary, the mother of Jesus walking by her son with so much sorrow in her eyes, and it made me think how hard it must have been for her to watch her son being crucified. I thought of the times when parenting is truly difficult, when parents can’t understand why they are going through stressful times, or why their kids are suffering. I find that there are very few answers, and sometimes all we can do is rely on our faith and the support of family and friends.
1. The Loss of a child
This is one of the most difficult experiences any parent can go through. It is painful to even think about. Parents go through a gamut of emotions, from being stoic and brave to virtually breaking down. It’s hard to know what to say in these circumstances. How does one comfort a mother or father who has lost a child? I’ve learned that your very presence when a parent is going through this difficult time is often helpful. Parents should be allowed to express their sorrow, and take time to grieve. It is incredible to me however all the good that parents do in this truly difficult time. MADD, (Mothers against drunk driving) was started in 1980 when Candace Lightner’s thirteen year old was killed by a drunk driver. The Amber Alert system was started in honor of nine year old Amber Hageman who was abducted and killed. Taylor’s gift, an online resource for organ donation, was started by the parents of Taylor Storch when she was injured in a skiing accident. They made the very difficult decision to save others by donating her organs. The list goes on. Somehow the good Lord strengthens parents to do remarkable things in their grief, to help others, thus showing the true meaning of love and sacrifice.
2. Dealing with a Serious Illness
Dealing with a seriously ill child is also very tough on parents. Parents go from helplessness to anger to exhaustion and sometimes even blame each other and the caregiver. It is helpful to step back and fall on faith and the help of family and friends. Some hospitals also have systems in place to give parents the support they need. It is a good idea for parents to find out all they can about the illness their child is going through so they can understand what is going on and make informed decisions. It is not helpful to be combative or aggressive towards your child’s caregivers. We are all on the same team. Everyone involved wants your child to get well. You have to believe that most caregivers empathize with you in the pain you’re going through and will do their best to ensure a good outcome. It is okay for parents to take a break sometimes. Don’t guilt yourself into exhaustion. Go home sometimes and take good care of yourself. Take your family and friends up on the help and support that they offer you. Your child needs a strong parent not one who is at the brink of exhaustion. No one will think you are not a good parent if you allow others to help you. If you have not seen Miracles From Heaven, you will appreciate the depiction of this mother and daughter as they struggle with unanswered questions.
3. When drugs and alcohol invade the home
This is one of the most serious issues that parents have to deal with. It seems like every year some new drug comes on the market, not to talk about the household drugs that kill teens. Teens engage in behavior like sniffing glue and paint thinner that can impair memory and damage their kidneys. The statistics are staggering. According to the US department of Health and Human Services, in the past month, 39 % of US seniors reported drinking alcohol, 16 % smoked cigarettes and almost 23 % admitted to using marijuana. I know firsthand the effect of drugs and alcohol on a family and the pain and emotional despair it can cause. Parents react in different ways to this. Some parents pretend there is no problem. Others cry and beg their children to conform. Unfortunately some parents actually engage in drug use with their teens. One of the first things to do is to acknowledge that there is a problem. As Dr. Phil often says, you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. Seek professional help. This is a very serious problem and there really is nothing to be ashamed of. Drug use is ultimately an illness and you really do need all the help you can get if you want your teens to get well and stay well. One of the keys to recovery is to get your teen to the point where they want to recover themselves. Unfortunately you can’t make your teens get clean unless they want to be clean, and when they get to that point, they are going to need all your support, and then some.
4. When families don’t get along
This is a very real problem. I’ve seen teens berate and insult their parents in public and show total disrespect for them. Parents are at their wits end, not knowing what to do. Families are torn apart during divorce and parents don’t know how to relate to their stepchildren in blended families. Often times there is a lot of misunderstanding all round and a total breakdown in communication. It is helpful during these challenging times to talk to your pediatrician to help with resources on finding counsellors to help the family. It is helpful to talk to you pastor or other respected advisor. It is not helpful to pretend to the world that all is well when life is falling apart at home. Be honest with yourself and get the help you need. Don’t give up on your family yet. Underneath all the pain there is often a yearning to reconnect with the family. Parents, you must do everything in your power to break down the barriers and make your family whole again, then trust your Heavenly Father for the rest.
Parenting can be really tough sometimes and there are a lot of unanswered questions as we go through some of these really difficult and traumatic times with our teens. As Joel Osteen says, there are times when we just have to put things in the “I don’t understand it box” and leave it alone, hard as that may be. Yet through it all, so much good is born out of our grief. Parenting can be challenging sometimes, but the rewards of parenting are truly immense.
The Easter message is so appropriate and timely for parenting today. After the Crucifixion, when all seemed lost came the resurrection and all the hope that it brings to millions of people. God gives us the strength and grace to keep marching on and He is able to bring good out of what seems to be the most difficult and trying circumstances of our lives.
Header photo credit: Review: ‘Miracles From Heaven’ delivers a fact-based doozy, but …