The Wayward Child

 

By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.

 

When a small child is born, the years when they are no longer under your wing seem so far away. Yet they come, and with those years come decisions by your children that are not always wise. The decisions children make when they are older are decisions that the parent has little control over. Sometimes these decisions are unwise and often scare the parents and seem to make life unbearable.

Sometimes the decisions that are being made by our adult children are decisions that are not life threatening or permanent. Attitude problems, running away, pregnancy, and delinquency fall into this category.

Other times our children's decisions have life threatening consequences. Reckless driving, drugs, major crimes, the danger of sexually transmitted diseases, and illegal use of firearms can result in death or incarceration.

The child, at this time in their life, has decided that the parent's wisdom is not for them. They do not value the parents experience and usually reject any attempt on the part of the parent to help them look at the situation differently.

At this point the helpless parent feels as if they are watching a horror story on video unfold. The sadness and pain seem unbearable and they want to scream out warnings of danger to the child in the video. Life seems out of control and the parent's broken heart seems un-repairable.

The following ideas may be of some comfort to the parent in these circumstances. But although these ideas may be of help, in the long run, they cannot take away the pain that is an inherent part of love. If you love a person and they hurt themselves, you hurt also. The hurt is part of the price we pay for being brave enough to love in the first place.

1.    In the process of trying to stop the child's self-destructive behavior, words may have been said that you regret. Recognize this fact for what it is. It is your attempt to help your child. Forgive yourself; apologize, if necessary, and go on. Condemning yourself for what you have said does little to help your child "now."

2.    Once you have forgiven yourself, determine what you can do to strengthen yourself. Recognize that you do not have the power to strengthen your child until he or she decides they want your help. In the mean time, make yourself into the person you want to be.

3.    Accept your child just as they are. When your child recognizes that you are not trying to change them, they will have a hard time justifying their anger toward you. Become your child's advocate, not their judge and jury. Others will play that role.

4.    Accepting your child does not mean you accept their behavior. Without trying to control, let your child know you do not agree with them on certain issues. Do this with as few words as possible, without being angry, and go on with life.

5.    Do not rescue your child. When they have made bad decisions resist helping them. This is hard to do when you have the resources but is essential. Unless your child recognizes the fact that there are consequences to unwise behavior they will repeat the behavior with more dangerous consequences. Be there as a cheerleader but not as a chump.

Life does not need to end when a child makes bad decisions. Become comfortable with the fact that your child has grown up and must face the world with the skills your have taught and they have learned. You canít change this fact and you must go on with your life. Whether you child is part of your life or not is dependent on their behavior, not yours. If they can accept you as a friend and supporter and follow the rules that you live by, then a wonderful relationship can ensue. If not you will be a spectator not a participant in their life.