There are more troubled youth out there than we know. They reside in homes we think of as near perfect. Most parents with troubled kids keep quiet. We don’t want to be seen as deficient. How can we allow our child to be so ‘undisciplined?’
It’s time that we are real with people. It’s time to take off the mask of being an ‘immaculate Christian’ and share with others the extreme trials parenting can include. It’s time to be bold, to reveal ourselves and give hope to a generation of mortally wounded.
It is now more important than ever for those of us who have parented difficult children to walk alongside other parents who are currently in the heat of the battle.
I speak from experience. The fear of our child’s suicide was real. For years, my community of friends bloodied their knees for us in prayer. I woke in the morning holding my breath for I knew not ‘which’ child would awake that day, my sweet precocious boy or the uncooperative foul-mouthed one. I went to bed exhausted mentally and desperate for the oblivion of sleep.
Through those years, I clung to one thing that I knew for a fact. My sweet boy was in there. He was only cloaked with the hurtful facade. I didn’t know from day-to-day how to chip away that exterior, but day-by-day the Lord revealed to me a word to say or a resource to pursue.
RESPECT THE VOW
ALL children benefit from the committed marriage of their parents. I will be bold to say the greatest gift parents can give is to love each other and honor their marriage vows. I am not blind to the fact that most marriages have times of extreme trial. I do not mean to offend those who are divorced.
But, if you are currently married and have a difficult child, do everything possible to remain a team. If the anxiety of this extra-mile parenting is wearing on your marriage, GET HELP!! It truly is easier to stick our heads in the sand. But, denial is just surrender. Don’t surrender!! Pairing the tumultuous emotions of difficult-child-parenting and working-through-marriage-problems may seem more than you can bear. But, guess what? You don’t have to bear it, the Lord will help you.
“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” Psalm 34:18.
The Lord will answer. He may send a mentor, reveal a psychiatric resource, envelope you with strength and peace.
Difficult children need an extra measure of Christ’s grace and mercy. Continually re-fill their hearts with love, because they need an abundance. Do not beat them over the head with their sinfulness. Yes, sin separates us from the love of God. But, that is not what you need to stress to your child. I think these children are filled with their inadequacies and feel their worthlessness far more acutely than the norm.
You can absolutely make sure that they know their actions have consequences and still reiterate how they have a purpose and are loved by their creator. AND, they are loved by you, even though you don’t like their actions, sometimes.
RELISH THE GOOD MOMENTS
All difficult children may not have moments of clarity, but mine did. I relished these moments and used them to teach, praise and love. Usually, I had something prepared to say for when the time appeared. Then, during the bad days, I could say, “remember how we talked about such and such and you said…..”
If you are currently a parent in the trenches, find a means of support. I guarantee there is someone in your life that has parented a difficult child.
If you are on the other side of parenting a difficult child, MENTOR. Get involved in the lives of those young parents who are at their wits end to encourage, uplift, help them find resources.
If you do not have a difficult child, restrain your judgment. The worst ashes ever heaped on my head were by well-meaning relatives who just thought I needed to use more corporal punishment.
Every difficult child has a different set of issues. What worked for us may not be appropriate for your family. But, we do have the common bond of broken hearts and HOPE. Your child is a precious soul who is hurting for some reason. Don’t quit looking for ways to help them break out of their chains.
Bonny Logsdon Burns guides Wilmington Faith & Values readers through the murky waters of faith and parenting.
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of SpokaneFāVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.