3 Critical Tips for Parents of Prodigals by Lori Wildenberg 
When we have a young adult child who has gone astray and walked away from their faith, family relationships, or family values or morals it is a painful thing. Part of the pain is the inability to fix the problem and control the outcome. So… we need to determine what we can fix, adjust, or influence.
Here are three things parents can do when they have a wayward child:
1. Shove shame out of the way.
  • Find your Aaron and Hur; friends who will support you, encourage you, and hold you up in prayer when you are unable to pray (Exodus 17:8-13).
  • Get professional help from a doctor and a therapist if you are struggling with depression. If you’d like help navigating your relationship with your  adult child, you could connect with me. I do private parent coaching and consulting and am available to help. Click here to connect. 
  • Give your spouse grace space when he or she is irritable. It may be related to the situation with your child. Try to be on the same team.

2. Demonstrate unconditional love to the prodigal.

  • Wait expectantly like the father in the story of the prodigal son. Pray in the waiting space. Be ready to fully embrace your child, no matter how he or she returns. Value the relationship over the behavior (Luke 15:11-31).
  • In some cases, rather than wait,  pursue your child like the good shepherd chased after the lost sheep. Pray for God’s leading so you know if you are to be still or move. (Luke 15:3-7)
  • When you are with your child, don’t discuss the “thing” every time you are together. Spend time enjoying each other. My guess is each one already knows where the other stands. This isn’t ignoring the elephant in the room, this is prioritizing the problem. Your most important concern is healing your  relationship. See past that big ol’  elephant.
  • Love the people your child loves. The friends of your prodigal are hurting, just like your child.
3. Provide conditional help.
  • Your love is unconditional but your help is conditional. Wayward kids can cost a lot in terms of time and finances. If you have other children, be aware of time spent with the one who is struggling and be sensitive to the perspective your non-prodigal may have regarding that. You may be asked to supply legal or financial help. For example, if your drug addicted child needs money, you may choose not to hand over cash because it might go to the next fix. You choose your boundaries and conditions for any help given.
  • If your rebel wants you to agree to do something that puts you in conflict with your convictions, you can say, “No.” Respect is a two way street.

Remember, just because you and your prodigal don’t see eye to eye, it’s OK. So what if you don’t agree? Lack of agreement doesn’t mean a relationship needs to be severed. Not agreeing isn’t the same as not accepting. We can still love those with whom we don’t agree (Matthew 5:43-48) . We do it all the time. In fact, isn’t that a stronger love than loving people who only see life and live life the way we do?

Keep praying. God is in the midst of this. Although our kids may have moved away from God, He has not moved and loves your child even more than you do.

If this post has spoken to your heart and you would like to read more, head over to New Hope Publishers or Amazon and get a copy of Messy Journey, How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home.

Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13: 8a

© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13Parenting.com. She has written 5 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home. and her most recent book The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family ConnectionsContact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.

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