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8 Ways to Help, Not Hurt, When Your Adult Children Are Struggling

When your children are small, they come to us to fix their every mistake and comfort them during every hurt. Most wounds in their lives can be fixed with a simple Band-Aid and a kiss. But helping your child heal when they are hurting from emotional wounds becomes more difficult when they become an adult. They no longer want us to kiss and hug them and tell them everything will be OK. They simply want us to listen and support them no matter their decision.

God Did Not Intervene with Jesus

It must have grieved God's heart to see Jesus suffering. Unable to comfort him in his time of grief or take the pain away, God had to watch silently as he bore our every sin and transgression. But not intervening led to our salvation and benefited all of humankind. In the same way, we must not intervene when our adult child is struggling with trials and trauma. Job losses, finances, and family issues are just some situations your struggling child may face. We must rely on Scripture that says, "In this world you will have trouble take heart I have overcome the world" (John 16:33.)

Although we may no longer have the same voice in their lives as we once did, they may still share their struggles with us. We may want to parent them as if they were still our children. Just as God gives us free will, we must also give our children free will. This means they are free to make whatever choices they see fit. What can you do when your child is struggling with tough circumstances? Here are eight ways to help not hurt when your adult child is struggling:

1. Pray

Prayer, although it seems like doing nothing, it is one of the most powerful weapons we have. We know we can leave our suffering children in his hands, knowing that he is a good God who will do what is best for them. Prayer is also helpful for healing our own wounds from watching our children suffer. We, as parents, need God just as much as our children do. Crying out to God in prayer not only allows us to cast all our cares onto Jesus, but prayer heals our souls as well.

2. Trust in Your Parenting

This may seem hard, but you must trust you have done the best job in raising your children. Now is not the time to allow your insecurities about your parenting choices to emerge. When your child makes a choice you disagree with, simply trust your heavenly father that you've left him in the right hands. If you are struggling with how you parented your child, seek professional help. They will help you process your insecurities and doubts and heal from past experiences.

3. Forgive Them

Matthew 18:21-22 says, "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!" Forgiveness is key, especially when your child makes a decision you disagree with. Because we are hurting, we can easily withdraw our love from our children. But just as our children's decisions grieve us, our sinful actions grieve God too. Jesus promises that if we forgive others of their sins, He promises to forgive us of our sins too. We must remember that "all have sinned and fall have fallen short of the glory of God."

4. Choose to Forgive Your Children Today

Even if you don't feel like it, ask God to help you forgive your children if you are having difficulty. If your relationship with your child is strained, have a heart-to-heart conversation and express your forgiveness to them. Your child doesn't need to ask for forgiveness. We must offer forgiveness with no strings attached.

5. Welcome Them Home

In the parable of the lost son, when the father sees his son way off in the distance, he makes a public spectacle of himself running towards him. When the prodigal son tells his father of his unworthiness, the father does not hesitate to welcome him back into his home. We have been extended this grace through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Therefore, we must extend the same offering of welcome to our children as we have been welcomed home by our heavenly father.

6. Support Them

Your child needs your support more now than ever. But your support may take on many forms. It may be financial (if you have the means), emotional or spiritual. Let your child know you're praying for them. Create a welcoming environment where your child can speak to you about anything. Now that your children are adults, you don't have to institute a consequence for their bad decisions. Lending a listening ear will help create a deeper bond between you and your child and allow you to lend your support.

7. Love Them

Although difficult, your child must understand that you love them no matter what. No one is too far from God's love. Nothing your child can say or do can ever withdraw God's love for them from them. The best example of Christ you can show your child is to offer them that same unconditional love. If you have difficulty demonstrating unconditional love to your child, study Scripture and write down all the verses about God's love for His people. God's grace is evident both in the Old Testament and New Testament. Ask God to soften your hardened heart. When God reminds you of all the ways He has loved you through the most difficult times, you will be inspired to do the same for your child. 

8. Journal

Buy a journal from the store and take time to write in it every day. Write an encouraging note highlighting one of their favorite attributes. Or you can write about your favorite Scripture and what God is saying to you through it. The daily entry doesn't need to be long, and if you're not good with emotions, it does not have to be overly sentimental. Simply write what's on your heart. Because you are so busy listening to your child when you speak with them, you may not be able to express everything that's going on in your mind and heart. With a journal, you can express yourself freely without fear of condemnation or further relational strain. You can either keep it for yourself, throw it away, or give it to your child as a gift. Your child may not appreciate it at the time, but going through those entries, they will know you love them, support them, and want what's best for them. This will also help you feel more proactive in doing something for your child to help them heal.

Parenting is hard. Each child is an individual and needs to be parented differently. This becomes increasingly difficult when a child becomes an adult. But with love, support, and active listening, you can show your child the love they need to survive and thrive in this challenging season.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes

Writer Michelle LazurekMichelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.com.

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