On Parenting Teens That Struggle...
by Jen Hatmaker on May 30th, 2014

I wrote earlier this week about enjoying my teens, and before I keep writing, let me say this TO BE SURE: my kids are ordinary and act total fools sometimes. Don’t imagine that we are skipping through the teen years with nary a rebellion, academic catastrophe, or snotty moody fresh mouth. I will not name names to protect the guilty, but we have run-of-the-mill teens that delight and frustrate in equal measure. That is just normal. Parenting teens is hard. So is parenting toddlers and parenting 2nd graders and parenting middle schoolers (sometimes I resort to singing hymns to manage my middles: “HAVE THINE OWN WAY, LORD, HAVE THINE OWN WAY. THOU ART THE POTTER, THESE KIDS ARE SO CRAY.”)
 
Parenting is hard, zero kids/parents are perfect, not every moment is a pleasure ever – in any stage, for any parent, for any kid, in any context in the history of life. Every person who disagrees with the previous sentence is a liar.
 
However, even though I am naturally an Older Kid Mom (I recall the Baby Years and get the shakes), I also recognize that my kids thus far – and I do mean thus far – have operated somewhat in the middle of the pack. While they aren’t skipping grades and ending world hunger, neither are they struggling with extreme behaviors, so my experience is fairly ordinary. We are in the middle of the bell curve.
 
But parents, do you know how many teens are in crisis? In the throes of addiction or self-harm or mental illness or depression? MILLIONS. So do the math: that means millions of parents are suffering alongside teens that are self-destructing.


I want to talk today to the parents in the deepest trenches, absolutely battling for their children’s loyalty or health or even their lives. First, you are not alone. Hear that. Parenting troubled teens often involves silent suffering, which can trick you into thinking you are isolated. An easy target for judgment or shame, so many families in crisis struggle alone, afraid or embarrassed or just too damn exhausted to reach out. Society expects three-year-olds to act like lunatics, but we don’t know what to do with a teen that cuts or abuses or destroys or hates herself.
 
Because we are a people who like to blame, so often parents get the side eye: What did you do wrong? What didn’t you do right? What could you have done differently? The truth is, teenagers are whole human beings and they get to choose their steps. So many troubled teens are beloved, they come from good families, they were rocked and read to and cheered for. There is no parenting formula that ensures any child’s path. Families in crisis don’t need a jury of their peers; they need a community of support. A parent can virtually do everything right and their child can still disappear. What’s more, a parent can virtually engage every good intervention, and their child may stay gone.
 
Then there is the very real reality of mental illness, addiction, emotional disorders, and trauma that many teens are battling. If our child had liver failure, we would go to the ends of the earth for medical care, the best doctors, the strongest intervention, the greatest support network, and all the earth would rally to our side to fight for her wholeness. So many of our teens are physically broken in their minds and hearts, and the magnitude of their hurt completely overwhelms their capacity to overcome on their own, but instead of a chorus of support, their families receive silence or judgment or disappointment which compounds grief and lays a heavy yoke on those who are already suffering.
 
I want to introduce you to my friend Amy and her son Landon (name changed). This is my dear friend who has struggled mightily for over 10 years with her teen. And I mean mightily. The grace and courage she exhibits, well, I just don’t even know how to talk about it. I am so proud to be her friend. She agreed to tell a bit of her story. May it be an encouragement to weary and heartbroken parents.
 
When did Landon begin struggling outside the parameters of "ordinary disobedience"?

We first started seeing changes in Landon when he was around 5. That's when he really started to show some defiance. He became very pessimistic and lacking empathy for others. And worst, no remorse. We started getting calls from teachers about 5th grade.  By 6th grade we were called to the principal's office.  Now he is in 11th grade and it's only gotten harder. His high school principal joked that he needed to put us on speed dial.  He's on probation for the 3rd time. Thankfully, nothing serious - just a lot of really stupid choices that he didn't get away with. 
 
But, let me tell you, seeing your child in an orange jumpsuit handcuffed is HARD. Just typing that makes me cry. Seeing him in pain because of his choices is so hard as a parent to watch. But we have given him the necessary tools, guidance and resources to make the right choices. We have had to step back and let the natural consequences play out. 
 
And, if you want a dose of humble pie - go sit in the waiting room at Gardner Betts Juvenile Center waiting for your child's probation officer while every other person that walks by knows your name! Very humbling. I look at the other moms in the waiting room (we all look like we all need to go to the spa). We give each other the I-can-relate-exhausted-look. No matter what part of town we live in, how much money we have in the bank, we are on the same battlefield: fighting for our kids.
 
What have his teen years been like? What have you been through?
 
To say his teen years have been difficult is a major understatement. We have cried buckets of tears through these years. We have screamed at God.  Pleaded to God.... This was NOT what I envisioned our family of 6 would look like. We never wanted to spend these teen years concerned about suicide, going to court hearings, spending hours at counselors, having random visits from parole officers. And we are still right in the trenches. Still pray every morning that Landon makes it through the day without getting arrested, killed or hurting someone else. 
 
I pray fervently that I would be a vessel of God's love. I need His love to pour through me to Landon because my human self doesn't feel it. I don't expect a lot of parents to understand how you couldn't feel love for your child. This was something 10 years ago I would've thought only horrible HORRIBLE parents could say. The first time I realized I didn't feel love for Landon I felt like I was defective or sick or just plain cold hearted. The first time I actually said that out loud to another seasoned mom that had raised a child like Landon and she said, "I know exactly how you're feeling. I felt the same way," I LOST it. Cried so hard. Just knowing that I wasn't alone and wasn't a horrible person was HUGE. 
 
That's what I hope comes from being transparent about our struggles - for those parents out there that are having a hard time - You aren't alone! I know there are going to be lots of parents out there that will judge me for this post. We've had relatives judge us. Please don't judge us (or do, I really don't care). We ARE good parents. You have no idea what it's been like.  
 
Let me give you a glimpse into my life parenting Landon: 

  • He has told me he loves me probably 10 times in the past 10 years and probably 1/2 of those were in birthday cards. 
  • He has probably hugged me back 10 times in 10 years - note I hug him A LOT, but it's comparable to hugging a wooden board. 
  • This year, he didn't say A WORD to me on Mother's day.  But, that didn't keep me from speaking to him.  
  • I am 99% sure that if he is talking to me in a normal tone of voice it's because he wants something. This is reality with him. 
 
I want to love AND LIKE my child. I want this so badly. I'm claiming that someday I will naturally again. But right now, thankfully God is providing.
 
What have you learned? How has parenting Landon affected how you parent your other three?
 
We have learned through several years of counseling, that there is only so much we can do and that it is not our fault. This was HUGE for me because I kept thinking we were doing something wrong; wrong parenting technique, not praying hard enough, not spending enough time with him, not having the means to take him to the perfect treatment center, etc. I blamed myself (and my husband) for so long for all the choices Landon was making. I thought his behavior was a reflection of our parenting. And I was embarrassed! My husband was the family pastor at our church!  We were supposed to have it all together and be a role model for other families.
 
Stop! Y'all - that is the enemy talking!!! Stop believing it. Get out of the church or community that makes you feel like a failure because your child is "misbehaving." Get plugged into a support group or church with real people living real lives. It's SO freeing.  
 
Landon has 3 younger siblings. Thankfully they are all doing really well. We don't tell them everything that's going on with Landon, just that he has made poor choices and we still need to love him. They are smart though and know most of what's going on. Through all this we emphasize how important communication with each other is. We want our kids to be able to come to us with anything. We want them to know we're not going to freak out and that we will love them through ANYTHING. We get the opportunity to prove that with Landon. Our actions definitely speak louder than words and others are watching.  
 
What would you tell another parent who is in the midst of heartache with her struggling child?
 
Get help. Get support. Don't try to do this alone. We have been to family counseling with our children, and marriage counseling. This was huge. Get a 3rd party in there to help. Godly counsel has saved our marriage! If you're married, keep your marriage top priority! You and your spouse need to be a team. The enemy will see this as a way to ruin your marriage, and it will if you don't put time and effort into making your marriage strong. Make sure your teenager knows that you and your spouse are on the same team and in agreement. When talking to our kids about parenting decision, my husband and I try to always say, "We decided, we think it's best, our thoughts are...” It also makes me feel like it has more weight or power. If you're a single parent -  I can't imagine. I would seek out a team of strong, loving peeps to back you, support you and help. 

We sought out prayer warriors to come along side us and pray with us in this battle. Doesn't matter if it's another couple that's older or younger, just someone you can trust and know that they will do battle with you. I have a friend (my cousin) I call and vent to at least once a week. I don't know how she puts up with it! But she listens and doesn't judge and that's all I need. (I do have to remind myself that I need to go first and foremost to God with my venting. The more I allow myself to be turned to God through these struggles the more peace and wisdom I am given).
 
Get respite. You need a break. Dealing with a troubled teen is SO exhausting. SO stressful. It can deplete you if you let it. See if there's a trusted family member or friend that can take your teen for the week or the summer. You never know unless you ask. We ended up sending Landon to Youth Reach Houston, a home for troubled boys. Totally 100% free. I can't speak highly enough about this ministry. They are raising Godly men there. Anyways, we had 6 months of respite. Not only did my huband and I need it, but our other children needed it too.
 
You can't just give up. Never give up on your child. Even if you're using tough love. That's NOT giving up. Tough love is TOUGH on the parents, but sometimes it's the best thing you can do for your child.   
 
Look at your child as being lost. Not simply rebellious. Not horrible. Not defective. Just lost and needs to find his way. You, as his parent are there to help guide him, instruct AND nurture. 
 
You have no idea everything your child has experienced. You may not know why he is behaving the way he is. There might be something that happened to him/her when you weren't there to cause him to act the way he does. I remind myself of this often when I lack grace, love and compassion for him. 
 
Teenagers need us more than ever. More than the toddler years. Don't think that just because they're independent and can do everything on their own, that they don't need you or want to spend time with you. And don't expect them to admit it. Ours never has. Try sneaking it in, like when you pick them up from school and say you're going to stop and grab a bite to eat. Pick a restaurant he likes. Ask questions! Act truly interested and listen.
 
My husband and I went to a weekend retreat for parents at Heartlight Ministries (a residential treatment center for troubled teens - HIGHLY recommend!) and we got to "interview" a few of the residents that had been there for several months. We asked them if they truly wanted to spend time with their parents and ALL of them without a second's hesitation said yes! Now granted they had been away from their parents for a long time, but STILL! If there is at least an ounce of desire from your teen to spend time with you- take it!
 
If you start having issues with your teen or see warning signs from him - don't ignore it! Don't have a "he'll grow out of it attitude." Keep your eye on it. Get help if it gets worst.  
 
Make sure your teen knows NOTHING can separate him from God's love and that no matter what your child does, you will love him. Don't base your relationship with your teen on what he is or isn't doing.  This is HARD.
 
What are your hopes for Landon and his future?
 
I am claiming that Landon will make a turn. That the light will turn on and he will desire the things of the Lord. I hope this comes soon. I hope I get to see it in my lifetime. I hope that he will use the struggles that God allowed to help others. I envision him one day counseling kids. He is SOOOO good with kids. Kids bring out the best in Landon. And, Lord he is going to have such an amazing story and testimony!!!
 
~
 
Oh my word. THE WISDOM. Thank you, dear friend. I love you and am so proud of you. Thank you for speaking so much permission and strength into weary hearts today. You are a marvel.
 
I love you, parents who are grieving. Let us come alongside you. Please talk truthfully to us and ask for help and love and nearness. I asked another precious friend whose teen is so lost what helps most from others and she said, "Kindness." Tell us specifically how we can help. Teach us how to love well in the midst of struggle. Receive grace – from your people, from God – It is exactly the thing that has always saved us.
 
God is not done with your child. It is never too late. No one is ever too far gone. Many a prodigal comes home in two years, five years, fifteen years. And may he find open arms, hearts that have been long awaiting his blessed return. And even if he doesn't, may you rest in God's grace and sovereignty and realize some homecomings are in this life and some are after it. You have loved well and labored mightily regardless. Well done, good and faithful servant.

~
 
Some Great Resources for Parenting Troubled Kids

  • Any book by Mark Gregston and the Heartlight Ministries (They have a great weekend parent retreat. Also, sign up for the email newsletter – always has great topics for troubled teens):
“Tough Guys and Drama Queens”
“What’s Happening to My Teen”
“Parenting Today’s Teens”
"When Your Teen is Struggling"




 
Brokenhearted parents, you are seen and loved. Can you add any resources in the comments (with links) that have helped you and your family? Or parents who’ve made it to the other side, we crave your hope and leadership today.



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192 Comments

Renee - May 30th, 2014 at 4:16 PM
Need this. Now and later

Anonymous - August 4th, 2016 at 12:25 PM
(Robinson.buckler @ yahoo . com) healed me from Bipolar Disorder ....
Ken - August 24th, 2016 at 1:11 PM
All the negativity that my son has in him will be removed from his heart and mind. All the negativity and negative distractions he will mature his anger will leave his heart and mind and he will become highly motivated to do good and work. This transformation will be literally overnight
Sam - May 30th, 2014 at 4:18 PM
Maybe a name was not changed in one of the paragraphs toward the end? Just trying to keep real names out of it if it is :) Great interview!
Amy - May 30th, 2014 at 4:21 PM
Just a question ... did you accidentally use the original teen's name at the end of the post? Don't want you to get in trouble. :-)
Chelle - May 30th, 2014 at 4:27 PM
Well said! I'm honored to work in high school ministry and the number of struggling families I encounter can break your heart. But the worst of it is when you encounter those parents that are trying everything, doing everything, loving with all they have and to see them judged by others is simply the most heartbreaking. It's sad that people don't feel safe enough to be transparent, we need to do a better job of loving and listening. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING! I will be praying for Landon and his dear family.
Louise - May 30th, 2014 at 4:29 PM
Thank you. That was actually more encouraging than the last article about normal teens. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed them both, but it helps a lot to hear people being real with their negative emotions and experiences sometimes. I also want to add that we, as parents of prodigals, need to be able to trust that God is good and powerful even if our child never comes back, because some of them don't. Even if, God forbid, they die in their lostness. Because that is another, finally worse, situation that real people find themselves in. I think about Abraham sacrificing Isaac, believing that God is able to raise him from the dead. That's not actually what happened, but Hebrews tells us that's how Abraham got through it. He believed that God is good enough and powerful enough to make the death of his only son right. Job, too. I have no idea how that might happen for us after the death of a wayward child, but those are the deepest trenches of real faith, of worship in the dark. Thanks for listening.
Marissa - May 31st, 2014 at 10:05 AM
Thanks for this, Louise. Exactly what I needed to hear today.
Aubrey - May 30th, 2014 at 4:29 PM
I'm a teen that made it to the other side. I'd like to add that what I wish I would have gotten was some honest self-examination on the part of my parents. I was deeply embroiled in depression, self-injury, and suicidal impulses. They loved me, but kept me and my issues at a distance. We were in a church community that shook their heads at me, saying, "You are so blessed to come from such a strong family. Sometimes these things just happen."
It has taken ten years since then to begin to disentangle the sexual abuse that happened within my home that no one talked about, that I had no words for. I never wanted my parents to beat themselves up over my issues, but I wish they would have taken the time to examine what could have contributed within our household. It's tough to feel like the crazy one.
We are a family of Sunday-school all-stars, Bible college graduates and respected church leaders. This stuff happens in every kind of home. There is no shame in admitting the truth about our families and asking for help for our issues. There is real shame in believing that "those problems" don't exist within our church walls. Your vulnerability might be just what someone else needs to not feel so alone.
There has been true healing for me, and I believe it's possible for anyone. I'm praying for all the heartbroken moms reading now--Jesus is enough for your child and for you too. He is more real to me now than ever.
Laurel - May 30th, 2014 at 5:27 PM
Aubrey, bless you. Thank you for sharing.
Jill - May 31st, 2014 at 7:50 AM
Thank you, Aubrey. You are so right. Through all my daughter's painful troubles, I learned so much from God that made me such a different, and better, person. It could not have happened until I let go of the defenses and accepted all of the feelings and all of the possibilities. We try too hard to present the perfect front and pretend it will go away. A lot of that is the judgment we get that she talks about. I appreciate your honesty for both sides.
Noel - June 1st, 2014 at 4:20 PM
Thank you for what you wrote, Aubrey. We are currently in a nightmare situation because of abuse perpetrated against one of our children - by one of our (adopted) children - and because we have refused to allow him back into the home, thereby enabling us to protect the others. Thank you for giving me hope that, while this is REALLY HARD right now, our actions are demonstrating to our hurt child (and the ones who weren't hurt) that we will do what it takes to acknowledge her pain and keep her safe to the best of our ability. (And YES, we are all talking about it, and YES, we are all going to counseling. We understand that is our best chance at coming out on the other side of all this.)
Lindsay G - May 30th, 2014 at 4:30 PM
I only have toddlers right now but I just want to encourage because my husband was a troubled teen. Drugs, runaway, in and out of jail, you name it...he did it. He went to church hung over at the age of 21 with his cousins only because of the promise of lunch afterward and that started a one year journey until God shattered his hardened heart and changed him from the inside out! He has now been a pastor for 13 years and is a wonderful husband and father!
Catheren - February 12th, 2015 at 1:43 AM
I know it's been a while since you made your post, but I fig'd I would give it a shot and reply anyway. I am currently struggling with my 15 year old son. Hearing stories like yours, gives me hope. Would you be willing to share more? What was it that changed him from the inside out? Did you have a mom and dad that offered their support. I'm just trying to grasp on to any kind of hope.
Felicia - March 5th, 2015 at 9:01 AM
Catheren--I'm struggling with my 14 year old daughter and just found this site and your comment. If you would like to reach out my email is below. I pray the Lord's peace, comfort and healing for both of you .
Casondra Brewster - May 30th, 2014 at 4:34 PM
Oh my goodness; Amy and I could perhaps trade notes. I so know that look shared between spa-day-needing parents at the juvenile court or the inpatient psych unit at the hospital. Now while I'm watching his peers' parents plan graduation parties, I'm visiting my son in yet another institution. There's no prom, no mother-senior tea, no graduation....just more battles ahead. I'm not giving up. I won't give up. Kudos to Amy for continuing the fight as well. I've been calling my son #TheLostBoy for a longtime now, equating him to the prodigal son is not hard. I seek out help when I can, sometimes, however, it is JUST us and I pray that it's enough. I try to get respite, even if it's just a few moments in the garden or a walk with my dog. Not just with my special-needs son, Bean, but also with his four siblings, I contend that the Teen years are more parenting-intensive than when they were nursing! They may seem more independent, but they honestly need you more. To Amy, to all the moms of struggling teens -- don't give up. You're not alone.
jj - June 1st, 2014 at 9:54 AM
I know how you feel, May has been an awful month. I watching kids that I have seen grow up, graduate, achieve great things and are heading off to college. You can't avoid it. I on the other hand have been missing my son and hoping and praying all will be brighter sometime in the future. He has been gone since the first of February. First to a therapeutic wilderness program and now at a therapeutic boarding school. I did get to visit him recently and my joy came from seeing the blue in his eyes and the newly gained 25 lbs. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't cry and wonder how this all became our life. I pray that tomorrow will be a little bit better.
Casondra Brewster - June 2nd, 2014 at 11:02 AM
jj - it will get better. I'm not there yet; but, I refuse to believe otherwise. Here's hoping that we learn whatever lesson we're supposed to learn from this, as do our children, and the future is bright with promise and success.
Carlee - June 2nd, 2014 at 2:46 PM
Sympathy for Amy and her treatment of Landon?! Really?!?!

I come from a family with a history of mental illness severe enough to have warranted a psychiatrist, medication and the odd in-patients stay on the adolescent psych unit starting in grade school -- for both myself and my baby sister K. As a result of timely, appropriate medical interventions, both K and I turned out just fine, thankyouvermuch.

Amy sent Landon off to "respite"!?!? To a "home for troubled boys for months"!?!? No wonder the the poor boy doesn't have much a relationship with his mommy or his siblings -- they bascially kicked him out when he was SICK and in desperate need of TREATMENT.

My parents never, ever sent either K or I to "respite" or the "bad girls home" -- they took us to the HOSPITAL because we were VERY SICK and in desperate need of TREATMENT!

During the weeks (me) or months (K) spent in patient on a pediatric psych ward, one parents typically stayed with whoever was hospitalized over night and the other parent visited in the late afternoons/evenings. Relatives brought casseroles, friends from school came to visit K and I after school or on the weekends. (We grew up in a large city with an excellent pediatric teaching hospital).

Both K and I are college educated, gainfully employed and happily married with kids. We both take medication and see a psychiatrist regularly, but the symptoms of mental illness are well-controlled with medication and have been for YEARS. I haven't been hospitalized since college (I'm nearly 40) and K hasn't been in going on five years (she's nearly 30).
Ben's Mom - June 3rd, 2014 at 11:29 AM
Carlee,

How wonderful for your family that you are (apparently) one of the fortunate ones who found the magic combination of counselors, psychiatrists, medications and institutions to help your sister & you find your way. How fortunate for you that some adult understood the manifestations of mental illness enough to know the catalysts for your behaviors were beyond your control. How lucky for you that some adult had either the financial resources to pay for the counselors, psychiatrists, medications and institutions -or- the organizational wherewithal (not to mention the luxury of not having to work 2-3 part-time jobs in this current economy) to navigate the ever-changing maze known as financial aid for mental health patients. You no doubt are grateful that, whatever your particular challenges, some adult had enough emotional energy remaining that they were able to continue seeking out those resources, despite the many, many setbacks experienced by most families traveling this path.

How very Christ-like you are in your compassion and non-judgment of others.
Annette - May 30th, 2014 at 4:35 PM
Another reference that was very encouraging: For Mothers of Prodigals: 6 Reasons to Keep Hoping (http://www.crosswalk.com/family/homeschool/high-school/for-mothers-of-prodigals-6-reasons-to-keep-hoping.html)
Patty - May 30th, 2014 at 4:37 PM
Wow. I'm choked up as I type this, fighting back the tears. I can't tell you now much I needed to hear this. For 2-1/2 years now, we've been in the trenches with our now 20 year-old daughter. In January of 2012, she unexpectedly walked out one day,informing us that she's leaving and that we can't stop her. She was 18 at the time and half-way through her Sr. Year in highschool, with no car, no job, and no permanent home to go to. We were devastated and still are. That first year, she went from one home to another, found herself in life-threatening situations, experienced a severe trauma, and was diagnosed with bipolar and a developing personality disorder. Through that year, our relationship with her was very one-sided, with her only wanting to talk to us when it served her, or she needed something. This past year, we went months without hearing from or seeing her, and when we did, she'd lie to us and try to manipulate us, which was heartbreaking. This past February, she informed me that she wanted nothing more to do with our family, and that she never wanted us or our extended family to contact her again. We haven't seen her in a year, and I haven't had contact information for her in about 6 months.
I can't begin to tell you the heartache I feel everyday as her mom, and sometimes I miss her so much that it's literally painful. I've been through the guilt, the thoughts of being a failure as a mom, all of it.
This post was so meaningful to me, just hearing someone else's story, almost as if it were my own. Thank you so much for sharing this, and for reaching out to hurting parents. I'm so thankful for your blog and your openness.
Sarah - May 30th, 2014 at 8:03 PM
Patti,
My heart is aching for you and the tears are flowing. We have a 22 year old daughter who developed bipolar disorder while away at college 1 and 1/2 years ago. The latest is the anxiety taking over her life. She is home for a bit and my life has become the organizer of meds, Dr. appts, questioning everything about how it all happened, she comes from a "good" home, etc. Has so much to offer.. but I'm more and more realizing that apart from Christ none of us has anything to offer but we have everything to gain by giving it all to Him. She isn't walking with Christ right now and that has become the biggest heartbreak of all. Let's keep praying for our beautiful girls Patti! I ask God to have mercy on us all every day. Bless you! Sarah
Melissa - June 1st, 2014 at 8:45 PM
Yep. We've been there done that with our now 20 year old daughter. She is also BP, ran away for the first time at age twelve. I cannot look back on any part of her later childhood without pain. This time she's been out of contact for over a year. She also has a child with her who was born when she was 17. I pray every day for that baby. I can accept the fact now that we can do nothing for her at this point, doesn't make it any easier. I'm done feeling guilty. She is my firstborn but she made her choices, we always loved and supported her, even took care of the baby for a long time. Nothing left to do but give it to God.
K - June 2nd, 2014 at 5:01 PM
Wow, it sounds like there are so many struggling with the same thing. My now 20-year-old daughter is currently in her second stint at drug rehab for an addiction to meth and heroin. She has struggled her whole life with depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorder, and now drugs. She is an amazing artist, very smart, but this disease of addiction is too much for her to handle alone. Only her realization of her need for God has started making a difference. You do feel isolated, alone, shamed, etc. with a chronic issue like this. Much time spent contemplating "what if's", and comparing your situation with that of other families that must have done things "right". Thank you so much for sharing this!
Patty - May 30th, 2014 at 4:38 PM
This may be one of the most beautiful true posts I've ever read.
Melissa - May 30th, 2014 at 4:38 PM
Thank you. We need to hear it. Between Facebook and friends it can sometimes feel like you are alone in the struggle even though what we envision others lives to be through social media may not be anything near what they are really like.
Corrie - May 30th, 2014 at 4:40 PM
I needed this. I'm on round 2 with troubled teens. My oldest is 20 and is just starting to find his own way but unfortunately his younger brother has begin his troubling journey. Thank you for sharing this definitely let's me know that I am not alone.
Amy Lively - May 30th, 2014 at 4:42 PM
A new book has been so helpful to me, it's called "I Need Some Help Here!: Hope for When Your Kids Don't Go According to Plan" by Kathi Lipp. Don't let the toddlers on the cover fool ya: the chapters are "When my child is running away from God" or "When my child makes poor choices" or "When my child is lacking character." http://www.amazon.com/Need-Some-Help-Here-according/dp/0800720784
Denise - June 1st, 2014 at 9:13 AM
I highly recommend this book also! Just finished reading it myself. Great advice for parents in any season of life with kids!
Amee R - May 30th, 2014 at 4:47 PM
This is so timely. I spent an hour on the phone with my son's counselor today, talking about how hopeless and pessimistic I feel about my son's future. We talked about his development, and how he's behind and kids in his shoes may not gain what we think of as a conscience until their early 20s. But will he make it that far? Or will he be dead or in jail? It's horribly depressing, and I'm incredibly overwhelmed right now. But I keep trying.

I'm not religious, so maybe it's odd that I follow your blog. But you're down to earth and I enjoy your stories and your little slices of reality. And today you posted something that felt like you were speaking to me directly, and I'm sitting here crying because I so needed to hear this today. I do feel alone and isolated. My friends don't "get" this mess, and I feel judged every single day because of the awful things my kid does and says. We've already done the courthouse thing and he's only 14. He's been convicted of a crime (an awful one), he's got a probation counselor, he's in a court-appointed treatment program (that we have to somehow fit in between all the other counseling and therapy).... it's hard to feel positive. It's hard to think about what he'll be doing as he grows and more opportunities for bad decision making come his way. I just don't know.

But thank you. It's helpful to see others out there talking about this, who get what we're going through.
Elizabeth - May 30th, 2014 at 6:01 PM
Amee, glad you have frequented Jen's blog, and that you felt comfortable enough to share honestly. Keep coming back and perhaps it will take the edge off of alone and isolated. Perhaps this community will help fill in some cracks of your own community.
Marda - June 17th, 2014 at 1:37 PM
All my love.
Mary Beth - May 30th, 2014 at 4:48 PM
Thank you for this Jen. My son had an extremely difficult and turbulent adolescence. He struggled mightily and I struggled alongside him. I trace the beginning of Matt's issues to the breakup of my marriage to his father. It didn't start right then but the seeds were sewn. I won't bore you with the details but the years were full of special ed, and doctors, therapists and medication and then alcohol and pot, bad choices and police and court appearances. Things moved on to drugs and more police and court and short jail stays, finally a long term program for "at risk young men". Matt did so well there and I was so happy and hopeful. Things went bad as soon as he was out. Eventually he did a second round there and then stayed in that community upon discharge. He did well for a while but always went back to the drugs. By this time he was an adult and there was precious little I could do. He always knew I loved him, we were solid. I knew he loved me too. More treatment both outpatient and inpatient,sober living until May 19 2013 when my precious 27 year old son died of an overdose. It was the worst case scenario that I had been fighting for years. It's horrible and feels as though there is an empty place permanently in the middle of my gut, but I know my precious son is with the Lord. He was sick, he had a brain disorder that is poorly understood and even more poorly treated. He's not sick anymore. He's healed and whole and I will see him again. In the meantime I remember our last conversation the night before he died. We talked briefly on the phone, laughed about something I can't even remember and then I said, "OK Matt have a good night, love you." and he replied, "ok mom, love you too."
Amy - May 30th, 2014 at 10:07 PM
Mary Beth, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing about your son and I am so, so sorry for the loss of your precious child.
Laurie - May 31st, 2014 at 1:39 AM
Mary Beth, thank you for sharing your story and your precious Matt. I am so grateful he is whole and you are healing.
Andi - May 30th, 2014 at 4:49 PM
Thank you so much. Even though our struggles have been less severe than what others deal with, I identified with every word, emotion, and piece of advice in this post. I was just telling a friend today how our community needs a place for parents to turn and hear this exact same message. Parenting the lost is hard, especially when you have children who make it so easy to love parenting. I feel like I've grieved the dreams I had for my family and have had to make peace with the reality of my life. It could be worse, but no mother ever wants to feel this way about their child.
Anyway, Jen, thank you for allowing God to use you to deliver a continuous message of unconditional love and hope. And Amy, than you for your transparency and for reminding those of us who struggle that we are not alone.
Crystal Merritt - May 30th, 2014 at 4:49 PM
We need DESPERATELY for more parents like this to be honest about the struggles they are having with their teenagers. We had our own battles with two of our children which only by the grace and mercy of God didn't result in them losing their lives or incarceration. This is exactly why my husband and I have started a ministry called A Sparrows Nest to help give support, resources and encouragement to those parents and family members who are exhausted and feeling lost by their loved one's addiction struggles. Look us up on Facebook under A Sparrows Nest or by our names (Crystal Brackett Merritt and Steve Merritt) Pray for us as we have our first free retreat on June 21st for families who need a few hours to step away from the battle and be encouraged. If you're in the Charlotte, NC area and would like more information you can reach me at 704-309-1214
K M - May 30th, 2014 at 4:52 PM
Thanks so much. A year ago, with no warning our 14 yo son ran away for the first time. This last year has been the hardest of our lives. Fear, worry, anger, court dates, fines, probation. So many things I never imagined us going through. It has been hard on our entire family. He seems to have turned a corner, but I struggle minute by minute not to parent from a place of fear. And the thoughts about not loving your child. Been there.
MaryAnn Waltz - May 30th, 2014 at 4:59 PM
Amy's story is my story, nearly word for word. My son is now graduated (Glory to God), and recently completed a 10-month discipleship program at Teen Challenge. He now lives in a faith-based community, loves and serves the Lord, and I am ASTONISHED at this miracle the Lord has done. Amy ~ I love my son now with all my heart and even like him, too ~ as you know, that wasn't always the case no matter how much I wished it was. Thank you for sharing your story. There's more of us than we realize, I think. Thank You, Jesus, for everything.
Pam - May 31st, 2014 at 4:42 PM
thank you for the good ending, of a kid who did turn the corner. Those of us with troubled teens need to hear that some do come around.
Lisa - May 30th, 2014 at 5:01 PM
HAVE FAITH AND PERSEVERE. My nephew went through an awful time as a teen that involved drugs, juvenile detention, and eventual rehab. Today he is a model citizen. He graduated from college in four years (a feat these days), has a good job, owns a house, and "parents" a rescued dog and cat. He will tell you that love got him through it, and he still thanks all of us in the family for never giving up on him. I love him like he is my own, and when he was so sick, I actually felt my heart break. Now it's mended and swell with pride and gratitude for my boy, his healers, and the Almighty.
Kate B - May 30th, 2014 at 5:06 PM
Thank you for this. This is a message that needs to be heard by so many. I'm weeping or I'd type more.
Sara - May 30th, 2014 at 5:06 PM
As I read this post, I almost couldn't breathe. Been there- been there. My son was adopted from Guatemala at the age of 8, and when he started to withdraw in 8th grade I thought- normal teen stuff. Then the police called at 1 am and my world tilted on its axis. Our son is also an 11th grader now. I pray the covering over him DAILY! God is changing his heart, his mind, healing his wounded and abandoned soul. He is questioning his faith now, and I am believing that it will only make his faith stronger someday. There are segments in this article, the intentionally loving him part. It has just been hard. Not being told "Happy Mother's Day", hard. Waiting while he met with the probation officer, hard. It was doo-doo I tell you. Complete and total doo-doo. Making my kid shovel doo-doo for community service...justice. :) Thank you for sharing this side! I always eat the meat and spit out the bones, and Jen H- love you girl, but knew that there were other mamas out there like me that have cried their eyes practically from the sockets over their teens. I am committing to pray for ALL of you! Bless you today!
v - May 30th, 2014 at 5:16 PM
grateful for this.
Amber S. - May 30th, 2014 at 5:16 PM
Wow. This story could be written by me. Well, mostly. Pastor's Daughter, mother of 6, and my oldest boy is likely to be diagnosed as a sociopath at the age of 18. (He's almost 16 now.) He was a difficult child from the time he was little bitty, and it grew incredibly bad by the age of 13. My youngest daughter came down our stairs one night after we had put her to bed. She had tears running down her face. That night changed my life. Over the next several months the incredibly disturbing details of what he had done to my daughter and also my youngest son left my breathless. Sexual, physical, and verbal abuse that blew my mind had happened in my home ~ by my own son ~ to his own siblings. He actually attempted to take the life of my youngest son multiple times, and I believe beyond any shadow of any doubt that Jesus alone stopped him from succeeding. He was removed from our home and I'll never, EVER forget the pain of packing up my 13 year old son to move him in with my parents. Breathing in and out became the major focus. We, of course, ended up in court where the judge told me that the abuse that took place in my home was the worst that he had ever seen in all of his 26 years on the bench. Jesus help us... I visited him in jail. The other mothers and I shared the looks of shame and guilt and pain beyond measure. He now lives in a foster home with amazing Godly people, and he loves his new life... because it's not with us or his siblings. To top it all off, he has NO REMORSE. NONE. I cringe when I watch tv and see yet another young man who has gone off the deep end and killed people because my heart cries, "That could be my son." I told him once that I was afraid that when he got older that he would come back for my younger son to "finish the job". He had NO response. It is shattering to know that your baby, the little one I held and rocked and who picked flowers for me and put them in a little green bucket, is capable of being a monster. It DOES NOT COMPUTE. Reading this today was so good for me because we are from a very small town where these kind of things just don't happen, and the sense of isolation can be fairly overwhelming. My husband and I have clung to each other and to our God, and I am so happy to say that our other three children have healed in the most miraculous ways, although they still each have their own battles that they continue to fight. Thank you for letting me know that I'm not alone. Thank you for speaking to my heart with words that I understand, and knowing that even this brief paragraph will speak volume upon volume to you because you hear the things I have not said. I needed this reminder ~ Never Alone. Thank you.
Morgan - May 30th, 2014 at 8:23 PM
This broke my heart. Praying for you and your son, Amber. Thank you for sharing your story.
Michelle - May 30th, 2014 at 8:55 PM
You are a courageous mama. Thank you for sharing.
Laura - June 3rd, 2014 at 1:07 PM
Amber- Thank you so much for being brave and sharing your story. So many people (myself included, until I read about it) don't realize that something as simple as a fall without a bike helmet can cause a brain problem. I have seen it in my own child. He had a bad fall as a kid, and just complained of a headache. But I read this book about the brain (and closed brain injuries) and how it can totally change a "normal" child into someone we may not recognize. It can be gradual and show up in many different ways. Problems in school, defiance, making poor choices, etc..Meanwhile, parents are blaming themselves, thinking they did something wrong.
Andrea Loy - May 30th, 2014 at 5:29 PM
For parents who have younger kids as well as teens at home this book is a great resource: What The Bible Says About Child Training by Richard Fugate It's never too late%u2026.
Davis - June 15th, 2014 at 10:48 PM
Please don't use that book. Excessive and punitive physical discipline will just make things worse, not better. There are plenty of ways to discipline with love and respect. The Fugate book is a manual for child abuse (breaking the will, etc?).

Amy - May 30th, 2014 at 5:33 PM
Sometimes God prepares us for a life we never imagined in a way that makes no sense to us. As you said, you see Landon as a counselor for kids, and that may truly be the path laid out for him. The only way to understand and reach someone else is to have lived it yourself. While this life is not what you would have wished for him, it may be God preparing him for His will to reach and guide others. There is hope in the trenches and light in the darkness. Prayers and faith for you and your family.
Bridaine - May 30th, 2014 at 5:41 PM
Of all the moments to see this blog post....cannot even say how hard it has been when the parents of good friends of your child steer their shopping cart quickly away when they spot you in the grocery store.....the hearing a religious mentor tell your child that their multiple suicide attempts make them unworthy for confirmation consideration in your own church....the HOURS spent in emergency rooms and in therapist's waiting rooms wondering just what is wrong with yourself for wondering if maybe there wouldn't be relief for all if she succeeded the next time her tortured soul turned to suicide??? Off to watch my nephew graduate....while my daughter sits locked in a behavioral health unit trying to find something worth living for even as her illness works overtime to hide happiness from her....not what I had dreams of as I rocked her toddler tantrums away or brushed her beautiful hair up into buns for dance recitals....thought I'd be a button busting Mom in the front row at graduation....not the one with tears in her eyes who will stay in the back of the hall so as to spare those who are uncomfortable with my reality from having to mumble some insincere or superficial greeting and turn quickly away......
Lori - May 30th, 2014 at 11:35 PM
I don't know if you'll see this, but I just wanted you to know that I read your words. I saw your heart. I felt your pain. I cried for you, and I prayed for you.
SR - May 30th, 2014 at 5:44 PM
Thank you so much for this. I needed to hear this right now! Thank you
Jody - May 30th, 2014 at 5:45 PM
I sobbed while reading your words today. I'm sobbing now. I read your blog last week and agree with every word. I love love love my 13 year old twin girls. I've loved everything about each of the years of their life. It's always new and I am constantly on my toes as I learn new slang, hear about their friends, and encourage them to follow their passions. BUT....I have one who is struggling. She is smart, kind, loving, funny, shy, quirky, talented and one of the most amazing human beings I have ever met. She doesn't feel that way about herself. She is in a self loathing-what is my purpose-why should I live state of mind. Fortunately, we have incredible support and I won't let this time define her. I have had the thoughts this last week of "what did I do wrong?" "How could I have prevented this?" and the worst thought "What will I do if she kills herself?" "How would I survive it?" I am a strong woman who has been brought to her knees by the fear of losing this beautiful girl. I'm exhausted but I'm not a quitter and I'm not going to quit on her. Thank you for your words today and for all of the parents who are parenting struggling teens...thank you for sharing your stories as well. We are not alone and it is good to be reminded of that. I pray every day that angels surround her, love her, protect her and that God makes very clear his plan for her b/c she has a lot to give this world....SHE just has to believe it.
Dawn - May 30th, 2014 at 5:49 PM
My children's struggles began before adolescence officially began. Our daughter attempted suicide at 12. Our son began cutting at 10. Try dealing with that guilt, judgement, and fear.

Additional resources are NAMI (there are national, state, and city levels). We have attended free classes for parents and we attend a parents' support group. Also The Grant Halliburton Foundation--has programs that target teens and young adults. They also provide learning opportunities for parents, professionals, and pastors--every year they hold "When Life Hands You Teenagers."
Meg - May 30th, 2014 at 5:52 PM
A thousand thanks for this post and for the comments too.
Patty - May 30th, 2014 at 5:53 PM
Some other resources:
Mercy Ministries (mercyministries.org) a fantastic ministry to teen girls and young women.
Cal Farley (calfarley.org) even if they can't help specifically they will give you numerous resources in your area. Both are free.
Teen Challenge is another great resource but they do have a fee.
Laurie - May 30th, 2014 at 5:53 PM
Thank you so much for this- my 23 year old son has been struggling since his teen with drugs. Did out patient and counseling for 4 years. Starting shooting up a year ago and we gave him the chose of going to inpatient or move out. He moved out and did OK- or what I thought was OK for almost a year, then told me he was back to the heroin and wanted out. He is now back in intensive outpatient and is facing major legal issues. I am trying my hardest to help him without enabling him. Supporting him emotionally, giving him work around the house to pay his bills (still not living here) and not paying for his legal fees. I don't know what's going to happen, but he knows I can only handle so much. If he decides on inpatient, I will pay for it- what else can I do? He is very loving and is a very hard working- has so much going for him. I also understand how difficult it is to get off the opiates and have already lost a nephew to them after he got out of impatient for a month. So scary! So whenever I read these posts, the ones where the parent loose their child break my heart- but then I frantically search for ones with happier endings. Got to have hope- I know the odds are against him- but we are here to get him to the other side. The serenity prayer gets me through each day.
Mom - May 31st, 2014 at 12:21 AM
Walkin the same road as many of you sisters. Except I'm parenting my prodigals four yr old because he prefers the opiates. I have spent a fortune on rehab....sent him to the second best rated in the nation, and we ain't rich! However, I'd do anything to save my beautiful boy. He has also been in a free faith based mens program, which worked better than the $50,000 I have thus far thrown away 80,000.00! What won't you do when it's literally life and death! he says he wants to quit, but always runs back to it... Wonderful, best son...till drugs. Couldn't have ordered one better if I could. He is now 26, when do u give up? He's been in jail, and yes I agree with a previous post...that's the most surreal thing...unthinkable to see your son brought in shackled in an orange jumpsuit. The mind blowing thing is I am the person who turned him in, trying to save his life....at that time he refused to get treatment and jail was the best option to save him....he chose jail over court offered rehab! I have done everything in my power to save him, I had to finally pull back to save myself. It is killing me. Not only the disappointment, the pure bitter rage I have towards him because he has to have his high. I have more kids....boy- 28,(he,26)13 yr old girl and 4(grandson). I'm exhausted. My friends with littles do not know what to say when I vent, they don't understand me....they do judge I'm sure. I would have back then. I am too transparent now after years of hiding it. Its a double edged sword, you need to talk and have prayer for you, but it does backfire, example: invited guest canceling and making my daughter cry when they wouldn't let their daughter come to her bday party....It is so unfair, we have a good home, my son has problems, ok....but we are to blame. It all gives you a heart for all the others struggling, not to judge. My thoughts are everywhere probably coming out irrationally. I'm just so sick of it all! Both my sons have been divorced, court problems...oldest had a bad car wreck after out one night during college....a night of bad judgement almost sent him to prison....that too cost a lot of money, $35,000. He is a good guy, that pushed me over the edge for a while. How much pain can a mom take? I never would have had children had I known. That's why I caution young moms to enjoy and don't wish away their babes childhood. If my baby girl (13) turns to drugs etc. it will be the end of me. It's so hard keeping on, I have too for the littles. The boy I loved so much, I think I hate. When he cons me into thinking he's all better, I find he's not. I Just had major back surgery and really needed him and his new wife to step up and care for his son..... Instead he steals my pills, I can't ignore that and let him keep his son...so now I have to protect his son from my son, crazy! I've been thru it, overdose, rehab, verbal abuse, conning me for money....lies, when I know he is high and call him on his crap, he twists it and says I am crazy and won't accept that he's better now. He makes me think I'm bad and crazy... I finally put hidden cameras in and caught him stealing pills....only when caught red handed is he sorry and repentant. If he truly was clean or wanted to be why is he sorry when he can't lie....everything I've ever bought him is gone today....vehicles, clothes, shoes, watch, baseball gloves....literally everything has gone for drugs. It's taken a toll on our marriage.....we love each other, but it is so toxic we rage out at each other when he's around. I am 48, hubs is 54! We are tired....too tired for needs of a 4 yr old. We have been to family drug counseling, I understand all about not enabling and how to set boundaries.....it totally sucks and after all the struggle, I may never see improvement....OD is a reality. After years of blaming myself and trying to fix it, I realized I must turn it over to God.... But when you love someone, you keep picking the load back up....do the best u can each day. I hated the last post, young moms loved it because it soothed their fears, but it is not truth for multitudes of GOOD people out here suffering and I appreciate the new post. I wrote a couple of comments with more cohesive words to try to get my point across lovingly in the last poet by author. Truth is, I feel like a failure because it seems like every crappy parent has a child that turned out better than mine did and I did everything that I could have possibly done to parent well. I said in previous post society and other adults are a harmful influence too..... And as a parent, u don't know what all has happened unless your child tells u...as protected as my kids were, I find out at ER from my OD baby, that he was raped by a man in our neighborhood. He wouldn't have ever told me if he wasn't so drugged. He was told that he was gay, he carried a lot of shame....I saw in him that and so much pain. So I struggle with anger and compassion, but it damn sure ain't fun! People will sell their soul for drugs...he said long ago, momma...I knew it was wrong to try them like cigar wrong....I had no idea how it would control me. I pray my child will once again resemble the babe I held in my arms, I do love him, I just don't like who he is trying to be right now and pray Gods will is for my prodigal son to return. Thanks to all who pray for our children and thank God for creating a safe place for me to stumble upon to vent.
LGY - May 31st, 2014 at 2:28 PM
Thank you for sharing. I can feel your pain and desperation. It is not your fault.
Becky - May 30th, 2014 at 6:37 PM
With a grateful heart I am able to say we seem to have made it to the other side. My prodigal is now 25 and we had the joy of watching his dear wife graduate from college this month. I can identify with so many of the things mentioned here. We placed our son at Heartlight Ministries and while he didn't come out of it "cured," I believe he learned a lot of life skills that are helping him even today. It took spending time behind bars to convince him that the life he was living wasn't what he really wanted. God has also allowed me to experience the loss of my first born son in an accident during his senior year of high school. My other two children were privileged to earn scholarships to a prestigious private college. When my youngest was in high school I became a single parent. All that to say, I've seen a lot in my parenting experience and I pray that somehow God can use it for His glory. I don't know how I could have made it without his loving presence through it all.
Lindsay - May 30th, 2014 at 6:49 PM
I was the older sibling of a troubled teen. It was so hard on my parents, especially my mom, because she didn't have any support. She had to hide the truth from everyone at church. She only had my dad- nowhere safe to take those struggles. Now that I'm a mom (of much younger kids, mind you), I can't imagine the degree of isolation she must have felt at times. Thank you for sharing your story, and Jen, thank you for making the space. These years can be so hard on families. I have hope for you that there is an end as there was for us. Holding your family in my prayers.
Julie - May 30th, 2014 at 7:18 PM
honestly, I didn't even read the last article about teens b/c it just made me sad b/c, frankly, we're struggling with our teen. Thank you for the honesty and hope in this article.
rebecca aske - May 30th, 2014 at 7:27 PM
sometimes it is not that they are a prodigal. Sometimes it is very real mental illness. The autism spectrum being one among many. Finding the RIGHT help and RIGHT diagnosis is difficult and yet so important for treatment and moving forward.
Heather - May 30th, 2014 at 8:29 PM
Our teenage daughter was finally diagnosed with bipolar last year and we finally have found the most wonderful therapist and psychiatrist after 3 years of trying to figure out how to manage the escalating issues in our home. Things are so much better now, but it was so very hard on our whole family - her siblings suffered greatly as well. We have a strong family history of mental illness and have always been very open and proactive about getting help, just as you would with any other medical issue. We are fortunate to have a great marriage, be educated, resourceful, have insurance, and are financially stable. But even with all that going for us, it took years to figure out exactly what was wrong, get a diagnosis and find the right doctors. I cannot imagine the difficulties for parents who have none of those advantages. And diagnosing and treating teenagers is incredibly difficult as so many things are in flux. We are grateful for the support of friends who have loved us through it all. I feel so much more hopeful now that our daughter is leveling out (with therapy and meds management and support), but I know this is something she will probably always deal with and I do wonder what her future will look like and how she will manage. We have faced several things that I never expected, and my family looks a lot different than I imagined when they were little. But I am grateful for my kids, and grateful for Jesus walking us through this parenthood thing.
Lauren - May 30th, 2014 at 9:42 PM
Thank you for being the person to say this!! I know when I was diagnosed at 19 with Bipolar Disorder (and the hard years that followed) it was incredibly rough on my family. But I was not making self destructive choices or doing anything intentionally to cause my family more pain and grief. It may not be the parent's fault, but it's not always the teen's fault either.
Heather - June 1st, 2014 at 4:35 PM
Hey Lauren, glad to hear from someone who actually struggled with and went through the diagnosis process themselves. And you're right - the difficulties are not always the result of a defiant teen who needs to snap out of it. Mental illness needs diagnosis, treatment and consistent support. As hard as this process has been for our whole family, I truly know that no one is hurting more than my daughter. No one chooses to have a baffling, unpredictable illness. I have to remember often that it is the illness, and not my daughter, that is causing so much trauma. I hope that you have been able to get help and support. Thank you for sharing.
Heather - June 1st, 2014 at 11:40 AM
This is where we are with my tween. It's been a hard road and there's no way to know what's ahead. But finding the right treatment has made our lives so much better. And by our, I mean us as parent's yes, but also my son's life. He is a happier child now than ever in his life. But it has been a LONG journey to get here and here is still not "good."
Kelly - May 30th, 2014 at 7:30 PM
As a mom of a recovering addict, these words ring so true to me. I have learned the true meaning of unconditional love. Surrendering our son at the feet of Jesus and leaving the worry and heartache there as well. I have learned to "drop my rocks" and quit judging other parents, something that I had never realized that I had done (Lord, forgive me). Our son had the great opportunity (I know, weird to say that) to be court ordered to the VIPER program that is operated by the Salvation Army in our area. It is a lock down, faith-based 12 step program with multi-agency involvement. A truly humbling experience is to worship on Sunday morning with addicts and alcoholics. We were there every Sunday to support him as that was the only time he could have visitors. Mother-guilt, I had a heaping bucket of it but spending time in the Word and in prayer, God revealed to me that He is the only perfect parent and His kids still messed up. Well, THAT definitely helped relieve the guilt and stop questioning every decision we ever made when he was growing up. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has great things in store for our son's life which is why Satan tries SO hard to destroy him. I asked God to let me make our mess His message of hope and restoration. I have shared with other parents that there is hope and to seek God in the storm. Encouraged others to practice tough love. Tough love is probably harder on us than it is on them. It was almost as though he needed us to stand strong when he couldn't. Baker acted, incarcerated, drug court, homelessness, rehab, relapse, half-way house, we have had to allow the natural consequences of his actions. Fortunately, his addiction only lasted less than three years. He is 25 months clean now and just recently finished a computer technical training program that he followed through on getting funding for through a grant. He has had to take ownership of his choices and their consequences both good and bad. Every day is another step away from that milepost of the label "addict". Every day, I am grateful for God's never ending Grace and Mercy and the unconditional love He shows to me as He answers the prayers of a broken daughter.
Michelle D. - May 30th, 2014 at 7:34 PM
I just wanted to agree that Mark Gregston and Heartlight Ministries is an amazing resource.
D.S. - May 30th, 2014 at 7:35 PM
This was a great post and very timely. It's graduation time but for my 18 year old son there is no graduation, no college plans, and there was no prom. It is hard to watch his peers go through the normal steps and see the proud Facebook posts by their parents. I wish my good friends would acknowledge or ask if it's hard right now. I would like more hugs and more "I'm sorries" and less questions like - have you tried praying. This is an exhausting journey. I'm too tired to know what help I need from friends. I ask that if you have a friend in this situation just jump in and help. Stop by and offer to clean or do laundry or take the other kids out for a while. Stop by and see if I can sit and talk for a minute. We often can't leave the house while we keep everyone safe. Have grace and mercy. Reserve judgment.
Liz - May 30th, 2014 at 7:43 PM
I have walked this path for the last 10 years with both of my kids, now 25 and 20. This feels much more honest than the first post even. I really enjoyed the book, "When I Lay My Isaac Down." It really helped me get passed all the guilt and self doubt that comes from unmet expectations.
LGY - May 30th, 2014 at 11:08 PM
That is a great book and one I read in the midst of crisis with my teen.
Nat - May 30th, 2014 at 8:01 PM
"So many troubled teens are beloved, they come from good families, they were rocked and read to and cheered for."
I needed to be reminded of this. Thank you.
Dani - May 30th, 2014 at 8:02 PM
I was that troubled teen. I was severely depressed as a teenager, a cutter, and suicidal. I wouldn't talk to my mom, refused to make friends, and sometimes I didn't even talk to the friends I did have because their parents would tell them to stay away from me. I am a college student now and my relationship with my mom is infinitely better. I am now a Christian, and I've stopped cutting and on the up-and-up from depression, and am graduating from a Christian university next year with a degree in music. To all you parents who are standing by their kids when life is giving them the worst end of the deal, thank you so much. I know I wouldn't be here if my mom wasn't always there for me, even when I screamed at her to go away. Don't give up. God can heal everyone, even people like me.
Chris - May 30th, 2014 at 9:59 PM
Thank you Dani, for sharing this with us parents...so encouraging.

Rebecca - May 30th, 2014 at 8:17 PM
I've struggled with this with my own son, some years after my own parents struggles with me. I admit that I was crappy as a teen, but I was also wrapped up in my own chronic depression. After my sons DX of bipolar (rapid cycle) was made I knew I hadn't just been making it all up in my head.I am always very happy for other parents who found the way to help before I did. It is truly the greatest struggle of my life.
Michelle - May 30th, 2014 at 8:20 PM
What saddens me the most is that there is so little grace for this in the church...the CHURCH, people....of all places where we should be able to find help and healing, and we instead are having to hide our pain and put on the mask of "got-if-all-togther"! We can't allow this to continue! This is NOT what Jesus would do!! And it's even worse if you are a pastor/vocational ministry....because God forbid your kids struggle, OR they are expected to struggle because they are a PK! Can't win either way! Just by putting this article out there, spiritual ground is being gained. People (like myself) are being encouraged that they are not alone, being freed of guilt and shame (especially with the part about it being hard to love or even like your kid, and the real pain and need for respite...guilt trip BUSTED APART reading this!). Thank you, thank you, thank you Amy and Jen!!
Kaitie - May 30th, 2014 at 8:24 PM
Coming from a formerly troubled teen, I can honestly say nothing helped me understand Jesus' love for me as well as the grace and unconditional love I received from my parents, even when my actions hurt them. Parents, I urge you to find peace in and remember that though the path they are on may not be what you hoped for or envisioned for your child, God has not left them and will never quit chasing them.
Mom of 3 in Bham - May 30th, 2014 at 8:26 PM
Best post you've ever made... THANK YOU for this.
SingleDad - May 30th, 2014 at 8:46 PM
Thank you so much for this article. I left the church where I was the pastor when I realized that my struggling young teenage son was not welcome and that church leaders would use his struggles as a weapon against me. He still has many, many problems and challenges. But we keep hanging in there ... mostly because there aren't any other options. I have faith in the power, mercy and timeliness of the Lord to heal him, direct him and guide him into the way of Jesus. Kindness and empathy from people are great, too. Thanks again for the article.
Sandi - May 30th, 2014 at 8:55 PM
Like the rest of you, my heart breaks over this story and all the stories shared above. I have no doubt our family would be in an equally extreme situation had God not showed me some surprising answers as to why my wonderful 8 year old son had become suicidal, enraged, paranoid, hallucinating, hearing voices in his head telling him to do bad things, etc. I remember looking into his brown eyes and thinking, "He's gone" and praying, "Lord, if this is the life you have for him, then please take him early." I can't type those words without crying. I had seen bipolar disorder in a close friend from college and a distant family member (not related to my son) and knew how that had played out.

I in no way want minimize what is going on the the spiritual realm, because there is no doubt the the evil one had come to steal, kill, and destroy our son, subsequently our daughter, our marriage, our health, our finances.....all of it. I stumbled upon a book I wasn't looking for at the public library when things were at their worst called "The UltraMind Solution" by Dr. Mark Hyman. Mark Hyman is the leader in the field of what is called functional medicine, which looks at root cause as opposed to medicating symptoms. In this book, he makes the connection between digestive and gut problems to all forms of mental instability (ADD/ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, paranoia, mood swings, etc.). I immediately took my son off of gluten (he was already 100% off of all dairy) and it was like a miracle....my son was back! I had learned that undigested gluten can bind to receptor sites in the brain in the same way opiate drugs do. So eating gluten had the same effect as taking opiate drugs for my sweet 8 year old. I also learned from Mark Hyman that hidden sources of mold in a home/dorm/office can trigger neurological disorders and gluten intolerance (we had never had gluten problems before). Our home had had window leaks from the time we had moved in (when our son was 5), but we did not realize that it was slowly poisoning us and damaging our nervous and digestive systems (everyone but my husband). We ultimately chose to leave our home and lost all of our possessions (too contaminated), but we are making strides now in our health. We continue to be gluten/dairy/soy free (I am also grain free/paleo) and very limited sugar (mostly berries and green apples) and stick with organic food. We also see a doctor in our hometown who understands mold toxicity and gut health and we support our healing through pharmaceutical grade supplements.

I hope this helps someone who may read this. Gluten is a trigger for countless health problems, autoimmune, digestive, mental...the list is long. I am grateful my children were younger when we made these lifestyle changes, as doing this with a teen or older would be incredibly difficult if they were not fully willing to cooperate. I never wanted to be the food police mom or the special cupcake family, but here we are. May God use our pain and suffering to set someone else free.
Peggy - May 31st, 2014 at 4:47 PM
Sandi, I am so glad you brought up this viewpoint. Gluten can be very destructive, not just to those with celiac disease. It is a neurotoxin. I had no idea how gluten was making me depressed until I stopped eating it. My moods are much more level.

Dr. Mark Hyman is terrific. So is Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of the GAPS book and diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome). She became a physician specializing in this because of experience with her own son's autism. He now leads a productive life as an adult, all because she discovered his gut health problems and his reaction to gluten and the casein in dairy.

Not all mental health problems are diet related, but what harm is there in trying? If the older child won't cooperate, give them either or both books to read on their own time - consider it planting a seed. And you are at least in charge of the food they eat at your house. Don't knock it - we truly are what we eat and nutrient-dense food is medicine.
mandy - May 30th, 2014 at 8:58 PM
yep, I'm there too. My oldest, now 12, has been this way the whole ride. With 3 younger siblings, and homeschooling them, every day is a struggle. In fact, this mother's day not only didn't I get a Happy Mother's day form him, he refused to go to church {where his dad was working and the other 3 kids were to go to class, so I sat ALONE at church on Mother's day while my 12 yr old stayed home}. It was only about 2 yrs ago I started opening up and sharing our struggles. I have been told I didn't spank enough, love enough, time out enough, give enough space and freedom, gave too much freedom, etc ad naseum. God is working to show me it is not ME, but HIM> God has a plan and a purpose for my son's life, and although most days I feel like I have been in the battle trenches and I won't survive, I trust God and His plan. It is more tough than anyone with 'normal' kids could ever understand. Thanks for sharing your story Jen's friend
C - June 12th, 2014 at 12:36 AM
Mandy....YES....you NAILED it sister, "it is more tough than anyone with 'normal' kids could ever understand." I have read through all of the comments, read the article, read the PRIOR article, and even posted to prior article about our teenage struggles as well. The common thread I am seeing through all of this is: let us please all love and support one another through our struggles with our kids, all the while RESERVING judgement, especially in the Christian community!!! Please don't ever presume to know what all a family is walking through until you have walked a mile in their worn-out, downtrodden shoes. Those of us walking in those shoes would NEVER EVER wish it upon anyone else. The condemnation and feeling of isolation can be suffocating, again, especially in the Church. We live in a broken and dark world where all of this runs rampant. If you have 'normal' kids, thank The Lord every day that you have dodged the bullet that your other sisters take in your place. Jesus, please come soon and end the suffering.
ami - May 30th, 2014 at 9:03 PM
Thank you so much for sharing this. I am so glad I read this . I have a 15 year old who is very troubled on probation for making stupid choices. I can really relate to the parent and landon. Her story and what she is going thru. Its nice to know I am not alone in this. I dont have friends to talk to for support cause they are judgemental . So I just keep praying for him everday that he will be ok and god will protect him. Anyways thank you very much.
Carrie - May 30th, 2014 at 9:04 PM
I was this teen. Rebellious, promiscuous, sneaking out, got caught stealing, got caught drinking, and had 2 children out of wedlock, all between the ages of 15-22. I grew up in yhe church, was baptized at 11, involved in youth group and had parents that loved me. And I was STILL super sinful and destructive. I can tell you that God has done a miraculous work in my life and by His grace, I am home again. I'm 34 and now struggling with my own 14 year old. I have felt all of the feelings above, but what truly impacted me was having a family that loved me unconditionally, prayed furiously for me, and never stopped pressing in. God's word says His kindness leads us to repentance. I saw His kindness poured out over me through my parents and step-mom and my grandparents and siblings and church family. Jesus showed His love for me through them until my eyes were opened. It has been a hard road, but sometimes we have to go through near hell to know Him in ways we never imagined. Praying for you. Be hopeful. Do not grow weary of doing good. Even when its killing you. Thank you for your words and your heart.
Mary - June 2nd, 2014 at 2:55 PM
Carrie - what I wouldn't give to pick your brain! Your story sounds so much like my daughter only she hasn't gotten caught stealing. She is drinking and smoking pot (which she says is hardly illegal anymore because they are going to legalize it soon, after all..) Has been fired from two really good jobs now. We have run out of ideas - what can you do when they are 20? I can't talk to her doctor/therapist, can't ground her - what do I do? I can't help but feel guilty. where did we go wrong?
M - June 3rd, 2014 at 4:12 PM
I am with you Mary,
What do you do when they are 19??? You can't force them to do anything! You aren't privy to any medical information so how can you possible even know where to begin? UGH!
Tina - July 16th, 2014 at 2:00 PM
Mary and M, I am where you both are with my 19 year old daughter. If they live with you, hold them accountable to your rules, hours, housework, etc. If they don't live with you, remind them gently they are responsible for their choices, that way there is less guilt on your shoulders. The guilt you feel can be crippling, and I realize God doesn't want us feeling it. KEEP PRAYING! I went through 4 years with my 23 year old. The choices he made had me shaking my head all the time. I remember one day after a court date, being kicked out of school and senior prom, community service work, counseling, days-weeks-months of not knowing where he was...I said, "Dad and I have not made you make the choices you've made." He looked at me, a little light seemed to go on, and we started making baby steps forward. Pray, communicate as best you can with them (not at them), and keep loving on them like Carrie said. She felt it, needed it, and later appreciated it!
joni in Nebraska - May 30th, 2014 at 9:11 PM
Wow, I wish I read this 5 years ago when we were hurled into our son's drug addiction. I identify with the above comments, going to court, frequent jail sentences, countless drug testing. There was a time whenever the phone rang we cringed, we thought it would be the call that he had died of an overdose. It's such a sad place to be as a parent--not the dreams we had when they were little. We are still in the trenches and still exhausted but we still have hope. Thanks for this transparent post.
Karen Aranjo - May 30th, 2014 at 9:19 PM
My daughter sent this to me to read. I am her mother and the grandmother of her 4 kids-2 of them are struggling with addiction to heroin disease. I struggle as I try to help her out with them sometimes...not enough I know. I love all 8 of my grandkids and ache inside because all I can do to help is to help their parents by taking them to and from meetings or rehabs or sober living or jail or visit them in jail or stand in as a close relative the times both are having counseling while in a rehab and we each go to one of their meetings!!! This is a family disease and there are of course other family problems going on but these when they are using are the big standouts and need the most attention. That is where prayer comes in---it is the best thing we all have going for us. Bible study friends help us to get thru and pray for all of us as well. I don't know why God chose us to cope with so much, but I do know these are His children, and ours to love,help, encourage and cry with and for and that someday He will make us all healthy and we look forward to that day whether here or in Heaven, sooner would be better, but God's will be done and we have many times claimed His promises in groups so we believe in continuing and that God is in control.

Sandy - May 30th, 2014 at 9:22 PM
Thank you for writing this, Jen. I have a teen who struggles with depression, anxiety and many other issues as well (I won't disclose here, to protect her privacy). I will simply say that I agree it's tremendously exhausting and stressful and it takes its toll on a marriage like nothing else.

In my experience, the most helpful things have been when people LOVE MY KID and also when they TELL ME I'M DOING A GOOD JOB.

Sometimes, I just need to hear that I don't suck. :)

Praying for all the parents and children represented in this post and the comments.
Wendy - May 31st, 2014 at 12:58 AM
Sandy, you don't suck... :) I know exactly how you feel because I have one too. It has been the most challenging task of my adult life. I highly recommend the books "Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression." It was like the author had a camera in my home... but ultimately it was a very encouraging story of hope.
Sandy - June 2nd, 2014 at 9:12 AM
Thank you, Wendy. Going to check out that book now. You know...just when I think we are through the worst of it, another wave hits. We're in one now. It's wearing me down.
ECN - May 30th, 2014 at 9:31 PM
Thank you for this post. Thanks for all of you who posted. Sometimes I get so worn down from it all. Reading all of this has helped. I am not alone, praise God!!!!
Andrea - May 30th, 2014 at 9:38 PM
Thanks Jen. It's good to see in print that it's not my fault. I tell myself that, but my eyes liked seeing it too.
Sonya - May 30th, 2014 at 9:39 PM
I needed that. Mine is 21, and the battle is still ongoing. Ironically enough, Curt with Youth Reach was our youth camp pastor for many years. Around that time, we had a teen in our youth group that we took in for a summer. He went toYouth Reach, still had a few hard years but ended up as a missionary in Asia. Thanks for the reminder of God's faithfulness.
The Prodigal Mom - May 30th, 2014 at 9:45 PM
Hats off to you on this one Jen!
Kristen - May 30th, 2014 at 9:47 PM
Living on God's strength in the midst of the trenches with our teen. We can relate to all the feelings and struggles and in the WORST of it - seeing God glorified in SO many ways has been what has kept our marriage strong, our family on the road to healing, and our story as a testimony of how GREAT our God is.
DMC - May 30th, 2014 at 9:56 PM
I so appreciate you making a space for this, Jen. I, too, read your post the other day and felt so guilty that for me, I can't appreciate the teen because he is such a difficult kid. Not to the extremes that I have read here but I keep seeing the future if this behavior doesn't change. I struggle so much with guilt and questions and "what did we do wrong." I pray but feel that is useless also....we are so lost about what to do next and it just kills me that we have four younger ones coming behind that are affected by this. We are in a great church, my husband is one of the pastors....but I still feel like we are alone in so many ways. Thank you for the reminder that we are NOT! I am grateful for the resources people have shared....I will be checking those out. So weary of the fight amd he is only 13 so there is lots more to come. Sigh.....trying to hang in, prayers appreciated!
Dee Pierce - May 30th, 2014 at 10:05 PM
Talking to the representative from Blue Cross Blue Shield. Burst into tears and couldn't talk. Needed to ask about insurance coverage for the anti-anxiety/depression medication we are about to purchase for our 16 year old daughter. Even as I watch her struggle with a broken spirit, my own heart breaks and the tears flow. Thank you Amy, for sharing your story, for sharing your son. No doubt the Lord is delighted with your courage. And thank you Jen for recognizing how your beautiful piece about loving your teens might hit a tender spot for some of us. You are dear to care for us when sometimes we feel nothing but silence. Because we can't share our story out of fear of judgment. Or people either forget about it almost as soon as we've spoken the words. Or they just don't know what to say. It's nice to have someone speak to us.
Christine - May 30th, 2014 at 11:18 PM
Amen, Amy. My older brother became lost around age 12, and turned around in his 20's. Our family was fortunate to have resources, counseling, respite with grandparents, doctors, meds, wise lawyers, and mostly, the strength and grace of God. I know God is what kept my parents together through this immense struggle that I witnessed and was victim too as well. It has taken 12 years for me to fully forgive my brother. I'm a mother of littles right now and I pray fervently that God will spare me what my parents and so many others have endured, that he will fill me with the insight I need to mother my kids as He wills me to, and yet, I've seen that indeed, so much is beyond my control. I pray that God will fill them with wisdom and discernment. My greatest wish for them is that they will desire to follow Him above everything else; it is the one thing that eases my fears for having a situation like the one I witnessed. No matter what happens, if your (or my) children die or harm others or live despondently, we can cling to the certainty that God is sovereign and he still loves us. That is my greatest encouragement. Thanks to all for what you've shared. I pray I never judge a mom or make another parent feel alone.
Mia - May 30th, 2014 at 11:49 PM
I'm currently watching my mom go through hell with my 20-year-old brother. It's all I can do not to shake him and smack him upside the head- but reading this (and all the comments!) fills me with compassion. I haven't walked the same path he has. Thanks for posting this Jen.
Marolyn - May 31st, 2014 at 7:41 AM
Thank you, Jen, for a beautifully written, much needed post! Thank you, Amy, for standing strong and being the best mom and daughter in the whole world!
Kathy - May 31st, 2014 at 8:02 AM
Thank you for this post. Our daughter is anorexic, has severe depression and has an anxiety disorder. She's been away from us for eating disorder treatment and was at Shelterwood for 14 months. (A wonderful place!). This led to severe depression in both my husband and me. We were so sad. Now she is home and doing fairly well, but i've left my job to stay home with her because high school isn't an option for her. It is hard not to feel alone. I also struggle because she doesn't want me to share any of this with my friends, and it is her story to tell. I want to honor that, but it is definitely isolating. Through it all God is good. Thank you for giving us a place to connect with other struggling parents.
Stacie - May 31st, 2014 at 8:12 AM
http://www.baldeagleboyscamp.org

This is not a "wilderness experience" or "fix-your-kid-ranch"

It's a long term goal and skill based program that uses natural consequences instead of unrealistic incentives and punishments.

It's a place where a young man can find God in the simplicity of nature, weekly chapel services, and the support of his group if he chooses but where he won't be pounced upon with judgements, sermons, or 2 2=4 theology that promises that if he does A, B, or C, he'll get "better" or get out if the program.

It's a place where staff drive 3 hours to meet with you about your child's progress and offer resources for your marriage and children.

Where your child comes to visit every 6 weeks with specific goals to help him move toward being a functional member of your family again, where every visit is a step toward your child moving back home permanently and every group evaluates home visits together and works on ways to communicate with their families better, to participate in family life, and to take responsibility.

It's a place where boys are allowed and expected to be boys and not to sit still and be quiet all day.

It's a place where the greatest academic goal is to be able to write and communicate effectively, a skill which troubled boys almost universally, do not possess or are unwilling to use.

It's a place where a boy can use his hands to build and accomplish things and regain a sense of pride in completing something he sets out to do.

It's a place where attitude is more important that outward conformity.

It's a place that accepts pre adolescents (Down to 8 years old. Almost impossible to find outside of psychiatric hospitals and state group homes.)

It's a place where you pay what you can afford and the entire tuition is 1/5 of typical camps and wilderness programs that offer quick fixes.

I don't work there and I'm not associated in any way other than that my child lives there. I've tried to type my story for 45 minutes now but I think it's to raw to be coherent. I couldn't see this post without posting this link because it took us years to find this place and I'd love to save someone else the 100 million hours of google searches, emails and phone calls to find a place like this if it happens to be something like what they're looking for.


Rosanne - May 31st, 2014 at 8:25 AM
Thank you for writing this. I could have written it from my own experience and lessons learned. Sadly, our homecoming with our boy will be in heaven as he committed suicide about 2 1/2 years ago at the age of 22. The questions of what did we do wrong and what could we have done better plagued us, and still come back now and then. But we know, because we didn't walk the path alone -- we enlisted an army of brothers and sisters in Christ to help us through, and they all know from their own experience how difficult he was -- that we did the best we could. We also know that our son is with Jesus because he made a strong profession of faith and was baptized at the rehab ministry where he was a resident for the last 6 months of his life -- and they all attest to the fact that he was truly trying to walk with Jesus. We saw the difference in him, too, when we visited him. But there was an inner struggle in him that no one could seem to figure out, and he suddenly left the ministry one day, and four days later he was gone. . . . We had told him over and over and over how much we loved him -- even the very last time we talked to him. We just believe that he didn't have what it took to face the struggles he held in his mind, and God took him home. Though the last 8 years of his life were hard, a constant struggle, and made him very undesirable to have in our home (we have 3 younger children), his death brought a deep chasm in our hearts that will never be filled. How do you lose your firstborn and ever recover completely? You don't. But God is good and faithful and gives the promised grace and comfort and peace, and yes, even joy.
amy - May 31st, 2014 at 9:01 AM
Oh Rosanne. I'm so so sorry. Sounds like we have a lot in common - 1st born son, 3 younger ones, many MANY years of struggling. I try not to fear that "Landon" will choose to end his life. He has just struggled for so long. So many long years. You get to a point where you know you've done the best you can. You did what you could. He knew he was loved. You gave him the tools and resources. You can deliver it, but you can't force him to receive it. Again, I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing.
Bobbie - May 31st, 2014 at 8:31 AM
Thank you for this post. So many need to hear it. I wish I had seen this 10 yrs ago. We're on the other side of the battle, for the time being. My son arrived with baggage being 5 when we adopted him. It's been hard for many years. But the teen years were the worst as mental illness emerged. I can't stress enough that one in battle for their kids, they need to get out with others that understand the issues. I joined an online group just to find another soul that understood how a good sweet kid in public could be so hate filled, anger driven, manipulative and cunning towards destruction of our family. Church sisters were few and far between. I was seen as the bad parent. Those online friends became sisters IRL- we meet every other month. Now years later as some of these same local moms are in the trenches we once occupied, I can reach out to them. They need to know that shame is not of Christ. The shame isolates, which is something that we never see in healing, in HIS healing. For those not in the trenches, please be willing to get messy and walk beside those that are battling for their children. It is worth it. And to add to this all, mental illness is pretty scary when you have zero experience with it. As you walk with your friend, encouraging them, please measure what advice you give to those in the trenches with bipolar children, or schizophrenic children. I got so much advice that would work great with a child that had healthy reasoning skills. But once that neuro link goes haywire, it's so different. Assist them in getting to good advice. Today my son is on the other side of this battle. If he continues taking his medications we're good. If he stops, we're back in the trenches as if we never left. Pray for those in them, every time you think of them. Every time you wonder if they have tried (insert newest therapy), pray. Love on your sisters and brothers who are feeling alone. May His grace rain down on them today.
Pamela - May 31st, 2014 at 8:35 AM
Thank you for sharing this. We are a few years past those years with our youngest, the nights that I went to bed not knowing if my little girl would be with us in the morning - she was a cutter! Now, she is a 20 yr old newlywed and I could not be more proud of her! I am so thankful that God intervened in her life and then brought her a young man that truly loves God and my baby girl!! This article will go on my Pinterest page for future reference because there will always be parents struggling with a teen!
Ann - May 31st, 2014 at 9:11 AM
Wow. Thank you SO much for posting this. A friend sent me your post about loving the teen years. I couldn't even finish it, because it was so not my world. Talk about making me feel guilty. Here you are LOVING your kid's teen years and I hate it. It has been hell.

So, thank you again, for posting. It put a lot of things in perspective.
greeneyerunner - May 31st, 2014 at 9:29 AM
Thanks for sharing your stories. We are in the depths of all of this with my 17 year old. There is a difference between a teen who is pushing the boundaries and getting into trouble and one who is truly suffering from mental illness. It took us several years of counseling to come to terms with this. You just know when your situation is "different". That is a hard day. You have tried so many paths with none of them giving you much answers. My child is away at a therapeutic boarding school after spending 10 weeks at a wilderness camp. I was doubtful but really was left with no options. We hired an educational consultant to help navigate our way. I was discouraged and upset with the lack of resources for teens in our areas. Neither our counselor or psychiatrist were able to offer us anything. I was fortunate to have a friend who's son had similar challenges and lead us to the educational consultant. My child's time away at wilderness camp was very promising. It got him sober and healthy. He gained 20 lbs. He also has looked inwardly and has become more aware of his emotions rather than hiding from them. He has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Then we had to make the next step and decided that a therapeutic boarding school would give him a better chance than coming home. He has been away now for a month and we just went out to see him. In so many ways he looks great. He doesn't like the rules and restrictions and is homesick for his old life. But I believe he knows we love him and are doing what we think is best. I ach everyday. Wondering if we made the right decision. I feel failure that somehow or someway I did something that lead to this. The house is quiet and without tension. I can sleep through the night without worrying about him sneaking out or staying up all night. But the quiet is haunting. I have grown to dislike being at home yet we have been isolated over the years due to all the problems. Some people are aware but we have distanced ourselves from so many over the years that no one has any idea that our son is gone. We also avoid being around people in order to avoid any questions about him. I feel in limbo. Your just get up and do what you got to do, and hope the next day will be better. So far it is not. But I do have to say, I feel like we have given our son the best shot to graduate and maybe lead a productive life. We will just have to wait and see.
Michelle - May 31st, 2014 at 9:43 AM
I have helped to raise 3 troubled teens. Cutting, suicide threats, legal problems, alternative schools, drugs, opiates, rage. I took them in thinking I would show them love, a good family, take them to church, introduce them to good kids, turn things around for them. Certainly what my husband and I have done helped but there are no words for the struggles. Kids at church thought they were strange, didn't fit in, parents of good kids didn't want their kids exposed to our kids, only kids that were nice to them were kids who were also in trouble so they taught each other different coping mechanisms - prescription drugs, cutting, pot. What I didn't have then were friends who knew how to help, especially if they were Christian. But I remember Jen praying with me about one of them and feeling loved while I huddled in my closet to avoid the kids overhearing my pain and pleas to God. Thanks Jen. What I know now is that addiction is a disease not a character flaw and it is often triggered by trauma. People addicted to drugs can't do it on their own because their brain has been damaged. The MRI of a drug addicted brain looks the same as a heart attack, both vital organs in crisis. Getting the drug becomes a survival instinct, like coughing water out of your lungs. Check out the HBO Addiction Project for lots of great information on addiction. http://www.hbo.com/addiction/. Also, I would highly recommend everyone learn about the effects of trauma and trauma informed care at the SAMSHA website. Love you dearly, Amy! Love you, too, Jen! You are both such an inspiration. I am still too raw to write about my experiences but someday ....
Debbie - May 31st, 2014 at 10:39 AM
Thank you so much for this article. I really wish I could have read it about 15 years ago when my then pre-teen son was still at home. We struggled with him in and out of juevy, numerous problems in school and acting out at home. He and I still have a strained relationship and I pray everyday that God will help us thru this. He now has 2 children and is separated from his wife. They live in another state and so I don't have daily contact with him or them.
I would have found so much comfort, courage and strength just knowing that we were not alone is this struggle and although I sought counseling for all of us, he refused to go. The whole situation created a terrible strain on our marriage and with our other 2 children. I was so ashamed that my child was behaving in a way that I would lie about it. I was embarrassed and the whole time, my heart was breaking for my boy. Unfortunately, my walk with God suffered too.
I have since then found my strength and my faith has been renewed and am praying and looking forward to the day that our son returns to us. I have come to accept the fact that God's timing is not the same as our timing. We are waiting and praying with open arms.
Hang in there Amy-
Anonymous - May 31st, 2014 at 1:26 PM
As the wife of a pastor and the mother of 3 one of whom has been diagnosed with just about everything from panic disorder, ADHD, depression and OCD I often want to comment but feel restrained because of the judgment I would face. The struggles are overwhelming and affect everything. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing. My heart aches for all who suffer in silence.
Amy - June 5th, 2014 at 10:37 AM
Dear Anonymous, one of my dearest friends is our pastor's wife. I know the scrutiny she feels she faces by church members, but I hope she knows that no matter what struggles they go through, I would be there for her, praying for her and loving on her in any way I could. I pray for you in your isolation. May God strengthen & uphold you, and may He bring others alongside you to encourage you in your daily struggles. I love you without knowing you.
Mom - May 31st, 2014 at 1:29 PM
Moderator, I posted previously in wrong place, reply...if okay, can u delete former?

Walking the same road as many of you sisters. Except I'm parenting my prodigals four yr old because he prefers the opiates. I have spent a fortune on rehab....sent him to the second best rated in the nation, and we ain't rich! However, I'd do anything to save my beautiful boy. He has also been in a free faith based mens program, which worked better than the $50,000 I have thus far thrown away 80,000.00! What won't you do when it's literally life and death! he says he wants to quit, but always runs back to it... Wonderful, best son...till drugs. Couldn't have ordered one better if I could. He is now 26, when do u give up? He's been in jail, and yes I agree with a previous post...that's the most surreal thing...unthinkable to see your son brought in shackled in an orange jumpsuit. The mind blowing thing is I am the person who turned him in, trying to save his life....at that time he refused to get treatment and jail was the best option to save him....he chose jail over court offered rehab! I have done everything in my power to save him, I had to finally pull back to save myself. It is killing me. Not only the disappointment, the pure bitter rage I have towards him because he has to have his high. I have more kids....boy- 28,(he,26)13 yr old girl and 4(grandson). I'm exhausted. My friends with littles do not know what to say when I vent, they don't understand me....they do judge I'm sure. I would have back then. I am too transparent now after years of hiding it. Its a double edged sword, you need to talk and have prayer for you, but it does backfire, example: invited guest canceling and making my daughter cry when they wouldn't let their daughter come to her bday party....It is so unfair, we have a good home, my son has problems, ok....but we are to blame. It all gives you a heart for all the others struggling, not to judge. My thoughts are everywhere probably coming out irrationally. I'm just so sick of it all! Both my sons have been divorced, court problems...oldest had a bad car wreck after out one night during college....a night of bad judgement almost sent him to prison....that too cost a lot of money, $35,000. He is a good guy, that pushed me over the edge for a while. How much pain can a mom take? I never would have had children had I known. That's why I caution young moms to enjoy and don't wish away their babes childhood. If my baby girl (13) turns to drugs etc. it will be the end of me. It's so hard keeping on, I have too for the littles. The boy I loved so much, I think I hate. When he cons me into thinking he's all better, I find he's not. I Just had major back surgery and really needed him and his new wife to step up and care for his son..... Instead he steals my pills, I can't ignore that and let him keep his son...so now I have to protect his son from my son, crazy! I've been thru it, overdose, rehab, verbal abuse, conning me for money....lies, when I know he is high and call him on his crap, he twists it and says I am crazy and won't accept that he's better now. He makes me think I'm bad and crazy... I finally put hidden cameras in and caught him stealing pills....only when caught red handed is he sorry and repentant. If he truly was clean or wanted to be why is he sorry when he can't lie....everything I've ever bought him is gone today....vehicles, clothes, shoes, watch, baseball gloves....literally everything has gone for drugs. It's taken a toll on our marriage.....we love each other, but it is so toxic we rage out at each other when he's around. I am 48, hubs is 54! We are tired....too tired for needs of a 4 yr old. We have been to family drug counseling, I understand all about not enabling and how to set boundaries.....it totally sucks and after all the struggle, I may never see improvement....OD is a reality. After years of blaming myself and trying to fix it, I realized I must turn it over to God.... But when you love someone, you keep picking the load back up....do the best u can each day. I hated the last post, young moms loved it because it soothed their fears, but it is not truth for multitudes of GOOD people out here suffering and I appreciate the new post. I wrote a couple of comments with more cohesive words to try to get my point across lovingly in the last poet by author. Truth is, I feel like a failure because it seems like every crappy parent has a child that turned out better than mine did and I did everything that I could have possibly done to parent well. I said in previous post society and other adults are a harmful influence too..... And as a parent, u don't know what all has happened unless your child tells u...as protected as my kids were, I find out at ER from my OD baby, that he was raped by a man in our neighborhood. He wouldn't have ever told me if he wasn't so drugged. He was told that he was gay, he carried a lot of shame....I saw in him that and so much pain. So I struggle with anger and compassion, but it damn sure ain't fun! People will sell their soul for drugs...he said long ago, momma...I knew it was wrong to try them like cigar wrong....I had no idea how it would control me. I pray my child will once again resemble the babe I held in my arms, I do love him, I just don't like who he is trying to be right now and pray Gods will is for my prodigal son to return. Thanks to all who pray for our children and thank God for creating a safe place for me to stumble upon to vent.
Tom Vanderwell - May 31st, 2014 at 2:11 PM
Go Jen, Go! Very well said. I wrote this in response to some of your questions - from someone who is there right now. http://tomvanderwell.net/2014/05/a-parents-response-to-jen-hatmaker/
Jenny - May 31st, 2014 at 2:29 PM
GREAT post. For years, I watched my brother struggle with addiction, and my parents worry, cry, question, and walk on eggshells, wondering when the other shoe would drop. It consumed their lives as much as it did his. Addiction fundamentally changes who your loved one is - they're no longer the person they used to be once the addiction takes hold. They become master manipulators, liars, thieves. Yet you never give up on them - you can't. I know my parents had to do everything they could in order to live with themselves in case something happened.

Sadly, "checking in to rehab" isn't as easy as it sounds, when the addict is an adult with no health insurance and no money. My brother went through countless rehabs, and was in and out of sobriety. Ultimately, he lost his battle, and accidentally overdosed in my parents' home. The solace is that he is no longer struggling, no longer worrying about disappointing people, no longer fighting those demons. He was always a gentle soul at heart, but a tortured soul due to his addiction. He is our guardian angel now, and shows us signs that he is with us, watching over us.

God bless all of your struggling - I know my parents went through many of the same things you all describe. They were good parents and did everything they could to help him. Sadly, not all battles can be won, but never stop the fight.
Dledwar89 - May 31st, 2014 at 3:02 PM
Thank you for this topic. I'm in the midst and it helps to know how others are walking on this journey similar to mine.
Mar - May 31st, 2014 at 4:48 PM
When you have a child suffering from a mental illness and/or drug or alcohol problem, it is, I think, every bit as tough as any other serious illness. The difference, without sounding sorry for myself, is that there is a stigma, real or imagined, and people do not fix meals for you - they keep their distance or else we kept them at a distance, I don't know which it was - probably both. My oldest son began smoking marijuana when he was about 15 and it was down hill from there. When he told me it was imported tobacco, I was so nave I believed him. Those are years I don't like to look back upon. My brother, a clinical psychologist, told me I would have to take the long view, which was not what I wanted to hear. I didn't handle it very well for a while. My weight skyrocketed, I was terrified every time the phone rang, my husband announced that either our son was going to go or he was. It was horribly hard on our younger children and heartbreaking and stressful for my parents and my in-laws. I was embarrassed and ashamed and I really believed for a long time that it was my fault - if only I'd been a better parent. Somewhere in there, I began to really pray honestly. I wish I could say that we experienced a miracle. I know that sometimes that happens but that isn't what happened with us. It has been a bumpy road. We put him in a facility in another state because our state doesn't allow locked facilities for teenagers. We looked at a therapeutic boarding school and then found a different option. We nearly went broke with the medications he took. He came out and relapsed and later went through another rehab, stayed clean and sober for a few years, decided he could drink moderately and eventually hit bottom all on his own, dried out, started AA for real and because he wanted to and has now been sober for six months. We are cautiously optimistic, we are very open with him about how hard we pray for him, we (especially my husband) have definitely been humbled by all of this and our own inability to fix it. Alcoholism and drug use is rampant in my husband's family and I have at times thought if I knew then what I know now, I might not have married him, as much as I love him. I've had a couple of opportunities in my personal life to be of solace to other moms dealing with this, and I know it has made me a more compassionate middle school teacher and a less judgmental person in general and I think it really taught me to pray because it literally drove me to my knees daily. Hang in there.
anon. - May 31st, 2014 at 10:22 PM
Many many years ago, when I was 17 years old and just graduating from high school, I dated a boy (same age as I was at the time) who was similar to some of the boys being described above. He was the oldest of four siblings. I dated him for several years, and I eventually fled from this relationship (with literally nothing but my life left) because he was so violent and sociopathic. What I want to say is this.......his problems did not appear in a vacuum. I spent many days, weeks, months and years around his parents and siblings, grandparents, and extended family. I knew them all very well. And I will say it once more - his problems did not appear in a vacuum.

I watched with my own two eyes the way his parents treated him. Sometimes it was subtle, and other times it was abrupt and undeniable. His dad secretly despised him because as he grew older he showed signs of being artistic (while his dad was very practical and gruff). He was never what his father wanted in a son. There were two younger boys in the family who were more like the dad, and the dad accepted them without hesitation. He had a younger sister as well. She was accepted easily because she was the only girl, and she was the youngest.

His mother on the other hand.....she had no problem accepting him. In fact, she idolized him, hoping he would someday become a famous artist (while simultaneously dominating him and abusing him physically, verbally and emotionally.) Again.....I witnessed these interactions with my own two eyes. His family never attempted to censor their behaviors when I was around.

In spite of his fathers indifference towards him, he became the family "golden child". In a strange blend of abuse, he was exalted, yet simultaneously pushed around yelled at. He was treated like a black sheep, yet he was heavily relied upon......they needed him to pick the younger siblings up from school, babysit during the summer while the parents worked all day, run up to the store and get some groceries. They needed him and idolized him, yet also rejected him and abused him. They wanted him to grow up and make a good name for the family, but they also made it very clear that they disliked him for being so different from the rest of the family. This drove him crazy, and he was a very, very angry person as a result.

I believe these mixed messages, coupled with the abuse and rejection, are what led to his personality disorders and sociopathy. As I said before, his problems did not appear in a vacuum. He wasn't an anomaly. He wasn't the only sick person in a family of innocent normal people. His whole family was sick (including me while I was with him).

I have not seen him or spoken to him in 20 years. After things ended with him, I had to spend several years in counseling just to get over the physical/verbal/emotional/sexual abuse I lived with while being in a relationship with him. People always asked me why I stayed with him. I believe it was because I knew what had happened to him - I saw it.....I was there. I loved him, and I thought I could be the one to help him. But in the end, he turned on me. Instead of rejecting his families abusive patterns, he began to embrace them and act them out on me. As a young adult in my 20's, I eventually came to understand that regardless of what happened to him as a child, it is never okay to take your anger out on other people (physically and otherwise). So while I understood how he became that way, and he had my empathy.....ultimately, I wasn't willing to lose my life for it all, so I left.

Either way though, I will never forget the family dynamics that took place in his home....dynamics I saw with my own two eyes. So I encourage parents to not just focus on their sons, but also go to counseling themselves - both mom and dad need to go. And most importantly.....if you have sinned against your child in any way, please make it right with them. And if you think you have never sinned against your child, you are probably wrong. These problems don't just hatch out of nowhere.....
Another mom in the trenches - June 10th, 2014 at 12:34 AM
I just can't let this stand. Just because you saw it in ONE family's life, does NOT mean it equals out to every family who has a child who struggles. We don't consider ourselves sinless, but we know we are a healthy family who cares deeply to do the right thing for our children. You can come live here anytime you want and see what's going on. Please remember that one experience does not equal all experiences. That is a logical fallacy.
River Birch - June 24th, 2014 at 7:43 AM
Wow. Your comment sure comes across as judgmental.
It sounds like you're saying the family is always at fault.
How unkind, unhelpful, and mean.

But maybe you're writing out of the terror you experienced.
Lisa Boonyasith - June 2nd, 2014 at 6:19 AM
I am weeping. Weeping for you mom, weeping because I was THAT teen & then some. Rebellious, abusive, angry, drug addicted, teen mom, suicidal, runaway, & ultimately incarcerated. BUT GOD. Let me say that again : BUT GOD. "He reached down from on high & took hold of me; He drew me out if deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes who were too strong for me"
Psalm 18:16,17

Jesus Christ truley came to seek & to save what was LOST. He is REAL. He is delivers the prodigal, heals the hurting & restores families. DO NOT LOSE HEART MOM. & PRAY PRAY PRAY. CONTINUE TO SOW SEEDS IN THE TEARS. HE IS FAITHUL.

If I could hug every one of you I would. Mom, dad, teen. I am a wife & mother now~ of teens actually! Nothing over the top on our end- but I do have to wage war for my children on my knees as I know my weary battered mother commited to for 12 years. If you met me now you wouldn't have a clue. I am a wildly passionate Christ follower & while I would NEVER wish the kind of sorrow I caused on my family, I cannot regret the way in which I know my SAVIOR & His restoration. DONT LOSE HEART MOM- HE IS FAITHFUL.
Kimberly - June 3rd, 2014 at 11:49 AM
Thank you for this comment. I could feel power in all your words. "I cannot regret the way in which I know my Savior and His restoration"--THIS. Yes. This is the desire for which I will pray for my child to one day be able to say as well.
Susan Tuma - June 2nd, 2014 at 8:35 AM
Thank you Jen for posting this. We have gone through a rough spot with our oldest this year - depression, thoughts of suicide. We are coming out of that fog by the grace of God. It is scary for sure. We as parents should be supporting one another through these times. It CAN feel as if we are alone - that no one else is going through the same thing and feeling the depth of pain and hurt faced every day. To know that there are other parents out there facing these same issues is comforting. A girlfriend facing some similar issues commented to me last week we should have a support group for mom's with troubled teens...what a great thing that would be. We have to stay in battle day in and day out for our children. Satan wants to control their lives and thoughts...I pray daily that God would be at the center of all they say and do.
carolyn - June 2nd, 2014 at 9:46 AM
Thank you for writing this, Jen. I also have a daughter struggling with major depression, suicidal ideation, and self harming urges. We have been "in the system" for 9 months now. This was all brought on by my husband's death from cancer 2 years ago and it has truly been a "mighty battle" that some days leaves me feeling just as broken and lost as she is.

One other great resource I have found is www.thebalancedmind.org; the support groups are so very very very helpful.

God Bless you and your friend (and her family), and thank you for writing about the reality of these struggles.
M. Atkinson - June 2nd, 2014 at 9:53 AM
Thank you for this. I love my kids and they mean the world to me. Having a prodigal child is just killing me. Drugs and watching my son killing himself slowly is killing me. I needed to know I am not alone.
Karen - June 2nd, 2014 at 10:09 AM
Thanks for this...it helps to know there are people who will understand and not judge. My pastors's sermon yesterday was about kids who wander and how parents can stay healthy. Here's a link to the audio
http://mail.trinitybible.org/messages/modern%20family/6-01-14%202nd.mp3
Fay - June 11th, 2014 at 11:52 AM
Thank you for that. I needed to hear that sermon today.
Gidget - June 2nd, 2014 at 4:37 PM
Thank you so much for this article . I struggle everyday to not buy into the voices of the enemy that say you are alone in this and it is all your fault. Reading this helped even if just for a little while. In the trenches fighting for my son , can feel very isolating and hopeless!
L3P - June 2nd, 2014 at 10:38 PM
I have a son that has "struggled." He has struggled to wake up in the morning, get out of bed, take the next breath, to not give into the urge to not be alive anymore. I have struggled to not shut down emotionally. It hurts to love someone so very much and be afraid to discover that they have quit struggling. That they have quit living. When every bump from their upstairs bedroom leaves you with fears of what you might find if you go up there. I lived with my heart in my throat for three years. One year ago my son hit rock bottom. Our pastor and a therapist at our church looked me in the eyes and told me this was not my fault. That I could not "fix" this. They looked my son in the face and validated his pain. More importantly they validated his worth. Promised him that God makes no mistakes. Jesus died for him. After years of therapy, finally someone prodded and probed and dug and got through to him. It was awful. He was angry. Dealing with that sort of pain hurts. But our pastor promised him if he wanted to get better there was a church FULL of people who would be there for him. They were. They are. Over the last twelve months I have seen my son emerge from the darkness. He has hope again. He is making plans. Life is not perfect by any means. But we are LIVING and not just surviving. He is starting to thrive. I write this to give those of you in that dark tunnel hope. There is light.
Missy Froeber - June 3rd, 2014 at 2:35 PM
Thank you Jen, "Amy" and "Landon" for sharing this story with us. You are BRAVE!
My 10 year old once said, "Mom, courage is doing something you are afraid of because it's the right thing to do." Thank you for doing the right thing and letting us all share in your story. It's given me hope. I'm praying for you.
Erica - June 3rd, 2014 at 2:41 PM
Thank you for writing this! I am the troubled child fighting the battle of addiction to alcohol and my poor dad had never left my side. From visiting me in rehab to picking me up from jail. He needed to hear these words. He did everything right raising me to be a Godly daughter but Satan is powerful and I walked my own path. Thank you for your braveness Jen. I love it & sincerely appreciate it.
Sophie - June 3rd, 2014 at 8:59 PM
Many families struggle without knowing that a child has Asperger syndrome.
Could it be the case here too?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asperger_syndrome


Leslie Nack - June 4th, 2014 at 6:25 AM
Thank you for this. I feel kindred to this woman because we are in the same place with our oldest son. We have three teen boys who came to our home 2.5 years ago. They were our first children and we are definitely be tried by fire in the parenting trenches and have experienced a lot of these same things. It is comforting to hear another loving mama speak things that are in my heart.
Adam - June 4th, 2014 at 9:23 AM
Thanks Jen, for giving us the other side of the coin. I think sometimes our love we feel for our children isn't the normal love. It is the love of loss. The deep tortured love of what could be, what was, and what seems lost. We look into their eyes and we see our newborn babies, at any age. We are their protectors, and teachers. When they seem to look back on us with only contempt, we can't stop loving them, but the love changes, it becomes heartbreak. No less strong, but different. I am praying for strength for all the parents out there. Be strong.
Van - June 5th, 2014 at 10:58 AM
First of all, Jen I am a huge fan of your blog. You have that unique ability to evoke tears of joy and laughter. No small feat. Some people are simply born to write. You are indeed gifted. Now, regarding the topic of this particular blog -- I want to share a condensed version of the dilemma that has enveloped my sweet sister and her husband. No two people breathing oxygen today wanted to be parents more than those two wonderful people. After many attempts at pregnancy my sister was finally able to conceive and the result was identical twin boys. Everything appeared fine with them through the toddler years and well into elementary school. But by the time puberty hit, both began to demonstrate erratic behavior. And it certainly did not help that both struggled with a stuttering problem. You can imagine the teasing/bullying they endured in school and beyond. Eventually, one of the boys was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. The other was not nearly as anti-social and depressed but displayed bouts of anger and frustration about his stuttering ordeal. Over a five-year period, my sister and her husband solicited the help of doctors, counselors, therapists, pastors, family, friends, literature and Almighty God himself for help in dealing with this mounting problem. Keep in mind that neither of the parents had ever suffered from mental illness or violent outbursts of any kind. You would be hard-pressed to find two more God-fearing, compassionate, reasonable human beings. Let me jump ahead for you. On June 29, 2012 the nephew with Asperger's used a high-powered rifle he borrowed to kill himself in a church parking lot. He was 19 years old. Try as he may to cope with the loss of his brother, the remaining twin simply could not imagine a future without his other half. On April 9 of this year, he bought a shotgun at Wal-Mart and took his own life in the parking lot where he worked. He was five days shy of turning 21. What's the moral of this story? That Life is hard and mean and unfair sometimes. Oftentimes. That the best parenting efforts in history are not always enough. So now we have two parents who never wanted to be anything more suddenly left childless. Left with regrets and questions and confusion. Thanks for sharing your friend's story which serves as a reminder that terrible things happen to terrific people all the time.
Lisa - June 5th, 2014 at 11:22 AM
Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm in a difficult situation with a teen as well, but mine is due to being a stepmother. However, I found this very affirming because struggle is struggle. I've been in my stepson's life for the last 9 years, and married to his father for 8. But the behavior I deal with makes others think I broke up his parents' marriage, wormed my way in, and disrupted his teenage life, and that couldn't be further from the truth. I've tried to show him friendship, tried being a parent, tried extending a family. Unfortunately, the older he gets, the more he resents my presence in his life. I've never tried to replace his mother. I can't, and wouldn't want to. He's with us half the time, with his mother half the time, so she is still in the picture.

Even though he's not technically my child, living with and raising a teen is difficult. I'm glad to hear others express their struggles and to know I'm not alone. Again, thanks for this "story"!
Michelle - June 5th, 2014 at 12:32 PM
Just...tears

My little has had his share of shaky moments through grade school and is headed into the abyss that is middle school this fall. I hadn't known true anxiety until I had a child who struggles with the person he sees in the mirror, and it is a very alienating experience.

Thank you for both sides of your "teen" posts, Jen. They have been a great reminder to weigh life with my littles more heavily towards the good moments and let God have the less pleasant ones.
Stephanie - June 5th, 2014 at 6:13 PM
Thank you so much for being a voice to those of us who have struggled raising a difficult teen/person. I'm the single parent who of course got judged that being single was the reason my daughter was cutting herself, stealing, getting arrested, experimenting with drugs, suicidal, an emotional rollercoaster. Thank God she is doing well right now at age 25. I know it's never going to be over though. I know there is always in the back of my mind the chance of receiving "that" phone call to tell me she's hurt herself for the last time.
Robin Lee - June 7th, 2014 at 8:31 PM
I am praying you find moments to laugh with him. God can heal with humor.
Maggie - June 9th, 2014 at 6:01 AM
Dear Jen
All I can write at the moment is Thank you to you and your friend for writing this. I can hardly type for the tears and ugly crying going on right now. And normally I read through all of the comments but this is all too raw and true. I haven't cried in the whole crazy number of years we have been trying to cope with and yet love our troubled son. I will come back and try again to read through the whole article again.
Another Mom in the Trenches - June 10th, 2014 at 12:58 AM
We are walking through the wringer and have been for years. Our oldest is 15 and I shared a bit of my story in the former post (about how great life with teens can be). We have watched other families absolutely enjoy their teens while our family can feel like it's imploding and our other children are destroyed by one child's behavior.

We aren't through it yet. We've been blessed with great blessings (terrific insurance, wonderful friends, a good team caring spiritually and physically for our child, ...). And we've found some amazing resources which have helped. We are not there yet. We know he deals with anxiety, SEVERE depression, obsessive behaviors (not compulsive), cognitive effects from the depression, body pains, headaches, agitation, outbursts, .............. equaling out to a diagnosis of Mood Disorder, not otherwise specified, but Bipolar 2 is what is really what everyone thinks it is. [interestingly enough, bipolar 2 has different manias. Instead of the traditional sense of bipolar, rather, you have agitation as the mania. And in children, mania/depression can cycle multiple times per day. This is all different from what most people know of bipolar]

For us, one helpful thing was learning that we really really needed to up our parenting skills. We are already considered (by outsiders) "perfect parents". We know we're not, but we know we are "good enough". (not in the spiritual sense, but in the sense that most kids respond to "good enough" parents). But our son was NOT responding to this. We had sought advice from every corner and attempted all we could. As he grows and, Lord willing, ends up on his own, NO ONE WILL CARE if he is bipolar. I mean, if his behavior is rotten, he won't hold down a job. He needs skills.

Resources which are helping us in this area (and I highly recommend them) are:
The Bipolar Child
Relentless Hope, Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression
The Explosive Child, Ross Greene (Collaborative Parenting)
Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach
and we aren't finished with it, but it has good advice: Total Transformation

These approaches went against the grain of most advice we had received. They DO make sense. And we are putting them into place. Very helpful. Each one comes from a different angle, but has great advice. None of them are Christian, that I'm aware of. But they all are excellent at understanding the different kinds of people and approaches each needs.

I really hope this helps someone. We have had several good days recently. A combination of medications, outside time, exercise, parenting changes, friends, prayers, ... all together have combined to where we might be on an upward trend. I shouldn't get my hopes up. They can come crashing down too easily. But these resources are helping us get through, helping us understand, and helping us with a plan of attack through the fire.
Name - June 10th, 2014 at 2:09 PM
thank you for sharing....I have a 19 year old who graduated from a boarding school. In he came home, it felt much better in that maybe he was ready to make good solid decisions. Now it's 18 months later, and he has been arrested twice -- once for pot and second time for public drunkenness. My heart is broken and it feels like a very lonely road ahead for him and our family. I pray for hope and strength and courage....
Jenny Graber - June 10th, 2014 at 9:37 PM
For any of your South Carolina followers, a terrific resource for young men is Boys' Farm (http://www.boysfarm.org/). It's a Christian children's home staffed by houseparent couples that live in cottages with the boys and teach them faith, family, and life skills. It's located on a 300 acre farm with animals, a pond, gym, baseball and soccer field so the boys have opportunities to learn the benefits of work and recreation. My husband and I have been houseparents there for the last 5 years, and God has redeemed many lives through this ministry. We are blessed to be a part of it.
Natalie - June 10th, 2014 at 11:04 PM
Thank you. I won't write much, but the message in the blog is critical. We have been dealing with issues with our oldest for 10 years. We are tired mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Though I can see ways the Lord has worked in my life, I have felt abandoned by Him the past few years. I know all the "right" answers to that statement (I've followed Christ since I was a little girl), but I am looking at the ruins and some days it'seems difficult to believe. I am grateful that my child's addiction led me to a recovery program for loved ones with addictions. I never feel judged in those rooms. It would be wonderful to say the same about the Church.

Kim - June 11th, 2014 at 9:54 AM
Jen,
Thanks so much for writing this and providing your friend's wise and encouraging words. Right now I'm listening to your "7" audio book. I've already read the book and loved it so much, that I listen in the car on the way to work. I wish our lives were anywhere near as fun as yours sounds!

Right now I'm dealing with a troubled teen with asperberger's. I'm on my tenth year of teenagers and I'm tired. The two older ones are grown (and not without their own, normal teen issues), and I have a toddler and a baby from my second marriage. My husband and my teen don't get along. In some ways they are so similar and in some ways they are polar opposites. I feel like I spend most of my days as a referree, desperately trying to keep the peace. My family members are far away, as are many of my friends. I moved a good distance to our current home and changed not only jobs but industries as well. I have no time to make new friendships at the moment, though I'm trying. I don't feel connected at church either.

Anyhow, the teen is failing everything. This despite IEP's, multiple interventions, homework help, the works. I've caught him in some very inappropriate online relationships in the past and he has had no access online for a long time, but once in a while he figures out a way to get back on. I can see the symptoms and catch him quickly (I work in I.T. and am way more tech savvy than he is).

I'm running out of ideas. I see trouble coming and am trying to find a good youth group for him to be involved in. He has had to make new friends here too since our move and it's not easy for him.

Thanks for all of the encouragement, and we sure could use your prayers up here in Illinois. Wish we lived closer. Your church sounds awesome!

Kathy G - June 12th, 2014 at 12:36 AM
We, the church, need to wake up. Church can be the most painful place of all for families like ours. The judgement is excruciating. But that is not the worst of it. Watching our 12 year old daughter suffer such agony because of the rejection she felt. Being adopted comes with its own set of rejection issues. Now feeling rejected by those who profess Jesus? What could be worse than that? We will fight for our daughter and those like her. We will fight by educating our new Pastor and elders and youth leaders. We will stop feeling unworthy.Through our pain we have learned a lot. We have been in training and God can use us to change the outcome of families facing similar situations. Jesus always defended the defenseless and would do the same for our children who suffer mental health challenges..






SJC - June 12th, 2014 at 3:36 AM
I will be yet another mom saying thank you thank you thank you for this post. Walking this path as well. We finally came to the point of taking our son to a residential treatment center when we realized we had exhausted our abilities to help him ourselves. Only to find out that the root of his issues was Asperger's. Why it took so many years of searching for answers to find this out, I do not understand. So he came back home with us. For which we are thankful. And now we are walking down the path of finding a therapist who can help him and us, of communicating with the school to make things better there. And holding onto hope that someday he will trust in God again.
Kimberley - June 12th, 2014 at 6:31 PM
Hi Jen! Your recent posts on teens inspired me to write about them...along with the fact that I have two myself. My oldest daughter (who is almost 18) and has really struggled, helped me write this one, as well as a few other teenagers I know:
http://www.kimberleysuchta.com/2014/06/02/5-things-parents-might-not-know-about-their-teenagers/ I hope it encouraged others as much as it encouraged me hearing this right from the mouths of our teens.
Daisy Atkinson - June 13th, 2014 at 11:54 AM
This is awesome! I teach 9th grade, live with a 9th grader (my son) and was just thinking why are there so many mommy blogs that talk about the terrible two's? Nobody talks about how terrifying it is to have a teenager! Then I stumbled upon your blog%u2026fantastic! Thanks for the insight, as a parent and teacher it nice to know I'm not alone.
Rachel King Batson - June 16th, 2014 at 1:33 PM
I read this post, wept, read it again, and sent it to my dear mother-in-law. I am one of who I assume are the few, the proud, the women who love their MILs. Nonetheless, her son, my brother-in-law was raised right, as right as rain, to put it in our Southern lexicon. He still ended up an addict, in jail, out of jobs, and would be homeless if not for the support of her and my father in law. They have grieved their sons troubled 20s so heavily, blamed themselves for his deviance from what he was taught, and agonized over what to do moving forward. As we all know, everyone has something to say, but few actually understand.

Even though this post is aimed at the parents of teens, I think the parents of those teens who grew up and are now unable to support themselves or be self-sustaining in any way need a fresh look at this, too.

When I shared it with her, I think for the first time, she realized she is not alone. It is not her fault. This happens to Christian people, too. But most importantly, SHE IS NOT ALONE.

Thank God the internet affords community, if not the eventual deprogramming of teenage brains. (I teach high school.)

Anyway, thank you. Thank you for her. Thank you from us. Thank you. To feel a part of something is somehow to feel whole, in my opinion.
Nina Tidwell - June 16th, 2014 at 11:24 PM
Thank you for sharing Amy's story. I am a mother of 2 boys, one 26 the other 17.
Fourteen years ago our oldest son was going through some challenges while in middle school. It was getting so bad that I would look at him and say (sometimes out loud) "Where is MY son?!" Because he was not at all acting like the young man I thoughy my husband and I were raising him to be.
We began to realize that his sphere of influence (kids at school) were playing a major part. Our son who is now 26 has recently been ordained as a pastor (we founded the first church in the history of our town). So he has always been a "leader" type. But when he was struggling in his youth, he was no longer the leader he was allowing himself to be influenced by his peers and it was very scary! We prayed and asked God for wisdom and one of the things we decided to do was take him out of public schools and enroll him in a Christian School. I know this does not always work for some parents and their children, but thankfully it did for our son. He met new friends and began to build new relationships, mainly with his teachers. We are so thankful to God for this. When we moved from our hometown to Florida (our current home and church home) my hubby felt it would be OK for him to attend high school in the public schools (our son is very evangelistic) I of course was very apprehensive but I trusted that my husband was hearing from the Lord. And it was true. He was a "leader" in school and started a youth group at our church and was very influential with his peers. He is now married and he and his wife are expecting their first child. Both he and our daughter-in-love are pastoring the youth group.
So I would encourage Amy to never, ever give up!! Stay in faith. God truly can work all things together for good. God can bring people into his life (and may already doing so) that your son will feel comfortable with opening up to other than councelors/parents etc. I stand in prayer with you that all will work out for good. Also, I just remembered that Joyce Meyer has a testimony of her son when he was younger that may also be encouraging to hear/read about. Search Joyce Meyer Ministries. Just a thought.
Thanks Jen for your blogs and books! My husband and I are working on our first book telling our story (very similar to yours and Brandons's) regarding our encounter with Jesus 14 years ago and the seriousness of Jesus words/teaching on the "least". Helping the poor (widow, orphan and stranger) is the core of our church. Yours and Brandon's books have been a blessing, thank you!
Pam - June 17th, 2014 at 7:40 AM
Hi Jen, thanks for highlighting a seemingly hopeless issue for many families. I have two boys, adopted when they were 1 and 2 who have made the last15 years hell. I am not exaggerating. We have 5 other children who, thankfully are "normal". We searched for years for answers. There are none. We've spent thousands of dollars, tried multiple councelors, prayed, switched to and from Christian schools, read books, tried different methods, to no avail. Because of what these two boys have done and said we have been investigated by family services three times. It was horrifible, humiliating, terrifying, choose your adjective. If I wrote a book the title would be "jaded or collateral damage". They have drained us emotionally and financially. It's nice that there are places somewhere who offer free respite to families like ours, but I've never found them. Thanks to Natalie in an above comment. I am a Christian that has felt abandoned by God and the church. I have never been able to say that before. I am still praying and still guardedly hoping, but definitely in the Christian casualty ward. There doesn't seem to be a lot out there for abused families. Thanks for your blog, I am usually the one who tries to make everything better and love finding the humor in things. Thanks for the times you make me laugh, I needed it.
Brita - June 17th, 2014 at 12:33 PM
So this one got me- because you are speaking my thoughts and my life. We have an 18 year old who has lived much of the last 5-6 years lying, manipulating, defying every good person in his life- and there are many, many good people in his life. He's been in residential treatment, through counseling of various measures and we've done everything in our power to get him any kind of help. He's now graduated high school and is facing fatherhood. Yes, there, I said it. For the first time publicly. I've gone through guilt, shame, embarrassment, anger, fear and indifference. There are days I think I'm fine and he's fine. And then the hammer drops again- A new revelation, a new lie, a new direction. And then sometimes I have to remember that he's been through a lot too. Sure-most of it by his own doing, but still it's been a lot for a young soul to handle. I have no idea what comes next, but I am thankful for God in our lives, good friends and people like you who understand. Sure, there are bad parents out there and their kids reflect that. But there are many good parents who've done everything they know how, and still struggle with defiant, troubled children.
Stacy Lee Flury - June 17th, 2014 at 8:44 PM
Thank you for sharing from your heart. There are too many broken families these days to keep silent any longer. God has been our strength and the Holy Spirit our guide. I have been blogging this past year on this very issue. Parents need encouragement, hope and a place to just pour out their hearts. They need rest and support in their time of need. By sharing our stories with each other, we don't feel so alone. By praying for one another, we can also be interceding for not just each other but for our children.
Jenn - June 28th, 2014 at 12:39 AM
Thank you for this. As a parent of a 15 year old teenage girl that has cut herself and used marijuana... This means so much. I am praying that we are rounding the corner. It's been a long, hard struggle. We are on day 27 of being clean. We started at a new church on day 1. Tonight, she asked me to play a number of Hillsong Young and Free songs. I can totally relate to the "feeling ashamed/embarrassed" feelings. Thank you... from another mother who is in the trenches.
Rebecca - June 28th, 2014 at 11:05 AM
This article just showed up in my FB timeline today. I have no doubt that God put this here for my relief. I have a 15 year old daughter that is so defiant! She is currently in counseling and we are already dealing with court dates too. For so long I have blamed my parenting skills and I'm relieved to hear other stories like mine. Just knowing I'm not alone is a huge relief. I pray everyday that she will return to her "normal" self again. It is getting better but we have a long road ahead of us. THANK YOU for sharing!
Brooke - June 28th, 2014 at 11:56 AM
Does your son by chance have Asperger's Syndrome? Zero empathy, Zero regard for others, unable to show love to others, rage. Little regard for consequences. It does give an excuse for his behavior or sin, but it could explain a lot. I am married to a man with Asperger's and have been around multiple children on the autisim spectrum. It is something to look into. Thanks for sharing this.

I just started a facebook group for Asperger's and marriage this week. I haven't promoted it,so I don't have any likes yet, but feel free to visit. I will be posting more information.
Florene - June 28th, 2014 at 9:29 PM
I Googled "Jen Hatmaker" today looking for a few blog laughs (Jen rarely disappoints), and instead, Jen meets me where I am again. Jen gets me. I, too, am naturally an older kids' mom, but my teenager is taking me to the wall almost daily. Thanks for the encouragement.
Alice - July 2nd, 2014 at 11:24 AM
As a grandparent, I've known way too many of these troubled teens and it is absolutely heartbreaking for all involved. Truly unconditional love is extremely difficult when the emotions are drained and one simply wants it all to go away......but way important for the teens. Please know that I'm speaking from a Bible-believing foundation and from many years surrounded by sincere believers who have had the struggles. In addition, we have opened our home to many over the years so that parents could have a respite from the crushing demands of this kind of parenting.

Might I add something to a couple of earlier comments? A parent never ABSOLUTELY knows what might have happened to their child. As Laura mentioned, a head injury that seems minor at the time could change a child dramatically! It is never extreme to seek professional medical opinions for even young children who are exhibiting difficult behaviours.

Also, there are way too many incidents of abuse from another child/babysitter/relative---even other Christians, and even in their own homes, that don't come to light until many years have passed. PLEASE pray for the Lord to open your eyes to what might have harmed your child, be it physical abuse or just emotional abuse, that causes him/her to be so angry. Please understand that I'm not saying that the parent is responsible, just continue to search for answers as the reasons may come to light for some teens.


Cortney - July 7th, 2014 at 8:10 PM
As a mom of a hard to parent 15 year old daughter, diagnosed with several different disorders.. Thank you! I was a young mom and always feel like I am doing everything wrong, and always feel alone in our struggles. From the very bottom of my heart- thank you.
L - July 8th, 2014 at 8:13 PM
Good read, but the comments are by far the best. Our "child" is now 37. Still no turnaround. Still praying. Still don't really feel love for him. I can relate to all the stories told here. It's exhausting. We have no real diagnosis. Why? Even with decent health insurance, the surrounding community (like the majority of our great nation) sorely lacks quality, affordable mental health care! And once he aged out, well...there's nothing available. He actually gets his best "treatment" when he's in jail. That's appauling! For the sake of our three younger children, we had to walk away. Don't judge me, please. Walking away from our first born...how could we? With God's grace and love, that's how. And now our beloved baby girl had to come home after 3 semesters of college due to depression, anxiety and self-harm issues. I am terrified! We are fighting this battle again, hoping to have learned from our failures with our firstborn.
Shane Sutherland - July 9th, 2014 at 12:04 PM
I could so relate to this post! But it is all the comments that God has used this morning to give me such a BIG dose of encouragement!! Yes, I know parenting HARD. Our oldest son struggled from the time he was 5 or 6 until the day he died really. He had turned so much in his life around by the time he died because he had given his life to Christ at age 12 and had turned fully to Him at 15. But, the chains of mental illness leave their mark, even when Christ has broken them. Zach drowned in a freak drowning accident 3 days before he was to go to Argentina with Word of Life Bible Institute to do a year of missions and study God's Word. He was fishing and he slipped on the edge of a creek and hit his head on a rock. Falling face down into 10 inches of water unconscious, he drowned before his dad was aware he had fallen in (he was around a bend out of sight). The doctors did all they could, but it was too late. Zach had just turned 18 less than a month before. When he died on 8/31/08, I had just started school a couple weeks earlier to become a Professional Counselor. We had struggled so with Zach, and I felt called to help other families. In my 6 years of education since, I am now pretty sure that Zach struggled with High-functioning Autism. He got every other diagnosis under the sun (ADD, ADHD, Sensory-Integration Disorder, Anxiety/Depression, etc), but when I apply all my education backwards, I know that his diagnosis was most likely the high-functioning autism. It just fits all the pieces - the sensory issues (he was stiff too when I hugged him), the emotion regulation issues, the impulse control issues, the attention struggles, the social struggles, etc. I am now even more passionate about helping parents as soon as their kids start struggling. It is so true that there is no magic formula, but I feel God has equipped me with a lot of knowledge about how to come alongside parents in similar situations, and I have surely learned so much about what NOT to do. And because I know that so many of Zach's struggles were neurological in nature, I cannot tell you how many times I have just praised the Lord for rescuing him on 8/31/08! Losing Zach has been the hardest thing in my life, but I know that his life would have remained hard, even though he fought his struggles with all his might. (For anyone interested, I chronicled his journey in a book called I Dare You to Live this Book. If you would like to check it out, you can at www.thedarebook.com).

As if parenting Zach was not enough, like many of you, I am no stranger to going down the prodigal journey with yet another child. Zach was my oldest, and my son Jered was 17 months younger. When Zach died, it caused a crazy combination of grief and fear of death in my son. With the depression that grief brings and the anxiety that fear of death brings, Jered also started down a path of self-medicating that has been nothing but self-destructive. Jered had chosen to serve God in full-time international missions, but since Zach's death he has completely walked away from God and considers himself a Deist only. He can't seem to go all the way to Atheism, but he refuses to believe in a personal God. All I can say about that is PRAISE THE LORD, HE HOLDS!!!! Even in our running, He holds!! So... parenting Jered has brought new challenges of how to love tough and yet get him the true help he needs. I beg the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment daily. He is now 22 and is pretty much wasting his life. It is interesting to see him try and find a way to still help people without associating with a Christian ministry. And at the end of the day, the helping thing remains all talk anyway. In his depression, he sleeps his life away when he's not working, and he struggles mightily with suicidal thoughts. So, I also know what it's like to pray your son through one more day, every day.

And FINALLY, to the biggest reason this post and the comments were so encouraging... I have known that God has called me to counseling for a few years now. I also know He has equipped me through so many life experiences. But, since finishing my education last December, God has refined my call to include a vision for a community counseling center in my area. I have named it Keystone Community Services Center - REAL Hope and REAL Help for REAL Families. It is my prayer that this center will be the beacon of Hope for my community that the people in these comments are crying out for! Keystone will have Family and Struggling Adolescent programs, Parenting Support Groups, and a cutting edge High-Functioning Autism treatment center to catch all the kids who are falling through the cracks with mental health diagnoses that never quite "fit". My center will operate as a non-profit organization, so it will be able to offer clinically excellent mental healthcare to those who would not be able to afford it. I could go on and on about the hope and vision and call to action that God has given me, but I will just end by saying THANK YOU to you all!!! God has used you to breathe fresh air into my lungs when I was already doubting if I could really take on this big thing. He has used you all to say to me once again, "Just trust Me. If I have called you to it (and I know He has), then I will do everything needed to make it happen. Your job is to trust and obey and be a good steward of time and opportunity."

So, thank you all from the bottom of my heart! It is my prayer that Keystone Community Services Center will become a deeply ingrained part of the infrastructure of my community over the next years, and that God will use it to heal and restore families in a way that only He can!

Love, Shane (a mom, even though my name suggests otherwise :)
Julie - July 9th, 2014 at 1:00 PM
I'm new to Jen's site but I am a parent of 3 teens and though I haven't had the struggles many have spoken of I have friends who do and I work with kids who struggle with emotional disabilities. I am going on my third year and it has been the most rewarding yet exhausting job I've ever done besides being a mom.
I pray for all parents who have teens that struggle...it's not an easy road and sometime resources are not always easily accessible especially for lower income families. I appreciate all you moms (and dads) who endure this sort of struggle day in and day out. I pray for God to bring you a peace that only He can provide and comfort with.
Melissa - July 12th, 2014 at 4:16 PM
I'm a child and adolescent mental health therapist and I see this scene played out day in and day out. One of the most important things you can do for your child is *be present*. If you are not there showing concern and love, getting in the trenches with them, praying for them...then recovery is going to be so much slower and more painful and so many more mistakes will be made.

Know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I have seen kids successfully turn their lives around. One of my favorite success stories is of a child who was addicted to prescription drugs and was "scrappy" as all get out (i.e. they liked to fight and frequently did). This kid went through a year of substance abuse treatment and another year of individual therapy. Eventually they were discharged because they graduated high school (with several college courses under their belt thanks to dual enrollment) and had been accepted into the early admissions program at a major state university. And they had a job that they had kept for 6 months! As mentioned in the article, *never* give up your kid. You may be the only one they have.
Denise - July 15th, 2014 at 2:26 PM
I am overwhelmed by the number of comments and the heartbreaking stories shared. We too have kids who struggle (or have struggled). It is a roller coaster life to be sure. We know what it feels like to be elated one day because our child seems to be turning his life around and then get a phone call the next day that he has been arrested; to talk to our son (the one I carried in my womb...the one for whom I had such high hopes) through glass at a correctional institution; to see the scars on his wrists from attempting to take his life.

My husband and I have learned things about prison life that we didn't ever want to know. But by the grace of God, I have also learned more about myself and I have had to become completely dependent on Him. I have learned that I am not in control...and I never was. His grace is sufficient for me, and His power is perfected in my weakness.

My heart goes out to each one of you who wrote of your struggles with your kids. Another writer mentioned this passage in her comment, and I think it bears repeating. Ephesians 1:19-20 says "I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms."

If God's power can raise someone from the dead, he can no doubt work mightily in the hearts and minds of our struggling loved ones.
Erin - July 26th, 2014 at 3:50 PM
Thank you so much for sharing this. I really never, ever would have imagined my home would become such a danger zone. My teenager, now almost 18, has battled serious drug addiction since he was 14. We sent him to a wilderness program. Relapse, more drugs, worse drugs. We then sent him to a residential center. Great while there, a mentor even. Home, worse drugs, more drugs, add in stealing from us and anyone els, even his little sister, now 9. He learned a lot about drugs from the kids in the programs, that is a downside for sure. Ultimately, he ended up on heroin. Needles. My baby. My child. We have no more money, used all of our retirement and savings. I had to tell him to leave. My daughter was exposed to violent outbursts or, even worse, total ambivelence towards her because he was stoned. Now he is in God's hands and has to figure out life a bit. My heart pulls to him, I want to call him and say, "Please, come home. I miss you. I love you. If I caused you to do any of this, I am sorry. I want you here. I want you to go to football games, to have friends over who open my fridge and eat all of my food, to go to the prom, to talk to after your first broken heart. Please, please come home and I will fix everything. I want to see your excitement when you get your driver's license" I will not do that, though, because I have another child to raise. She is vibrant now. She is relieved. When they talk on the phone, you can feel the friendship and love there. I do not have to worry about my things being stolen, police calling or coming to my door, him sneaking out of his window and being gone for up to a week sometimes. He says he is clean. I suspect he is not. I have read everything about these drugs and heroin is not a simple walk away. I gave him a choice of living in a sober home or figuring something else out. I told him I loved him and that I am here. I am here to help, will support you, will do anything to help you go forward in life. I told him he had to want to. No more will I allow him to be the only focus this family has. We have all lost 5 years. GH
Diana - November 6th, 2014 at 4:41 PM
I read a book recently called Tristan's Gap by Nancy Rue. great book. I sobbed through the entire book. I won't give it away, except to say that I related as a teen girl, a mom and a wife.
Teenage Sons - November 9th, 2014 at 8:11 AM
Thanks for sharing! Great article. It is so important to get help from other people you trust to get you through difficult times. When you're unsure of how to handle a family challenge, especially when dealing with difficult teenage behaviors, getting a different perspective is a great start! Parents can't do everything themselves. I'm sure we've all heard this before, "It takes a village to raise a child." That means people who love us such as friends, family, and our counselors are happy to help. Talking with someone who has been through it as well will make you feel at ease and that you're not alone. Keep trying and you'll get better at parenting those difficult situations and will create a great relationship with your teenager.
Michelle - December 21st, 2014 at 1:23 PM
I needed to read this article. I have been so heartbroken, lost and very alone with desling with my teenage daughter. My husband and I have done everything to get her to care about school etc...all we can do now is pray and let her decide her path. Please pray that something will change in her.%uD83D%uDE4F
Bobbie - December 30th, 2014 at 12:10 PM
Michelle - me too. I've struggled with my 15 year old son for years. I will pray for your daughter and please pray for my son. My son was diagnosed with ADHD at a very young age and we have struggled tremendously since. There are times I think he has bi-polar and other times he has ODD - Oppositional Defiant Disorder. He's been in and out of counseling for years. He's been on medicine most of his life. His teachers try to help him succeed. I try to help, but he continues to choose things that are not good for him. He's Asian and White and struggles in school so he gets picked on/bullied a lot, especially because he doesn't feel "smart" and a lot of Asians are considered intelligent. I will continue to pray and rely on God and hope that one day my son will choose God. I thought things were turning around when he chose a Christian ministry this year, but he didn't take his medicine and ended up getting a lot of people angry with him because of his immaturity and the way he behaved. He then posted a video of himself "smoking a roach" (which was really not) and even more people laughed at him. He just wants to be loved, have friends and get attention. My heart breaks for him and it gets so tiring. In GOD I trust!!
Suzette Carluccio - February 27th, 2015 at 8:42 PM
I had a struggle of my own with my teen daughter, who was a chronic runaway. You can read my story, while finding some comfort in the fact that you are not alone, in my book called "RunAway with My Heart: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Toward Letting Go" by Suzette Carluccio. You can find it on Amazon and in Ereader versions.
Petra - January 15th, 2016 at 2:52 AM
Thank you! It's time we treat the brain as a body part that can get sick as well.
melissa - March 1st, 2016 at 2:26 PM
Thank you for the article and allowing your friend to share a bit of there life. This all has truly been a blessing as I am in the midst of raising a teen who is going thru and putting me thru as well as her mother.
I continue to pray and walk by faith that God is in control and the best is yet to come for my child and myself.
Crystal - March 6th, 2016 at 8:23 PM
Crying so hard reading this right now ... I already lost two children in a car wreck . 8 and 10 and my 16 year old has had issues since before that .. And he's in jail again and I just left . My heart is shut off . He's been in treatment since he was five also . Please pray ..
My children's mother; Father's daughter - April 22nd, 2016 at 1:15 PM
Needed this today . . . I love how God shows me He's right with me in moments of finding the "right" blog post . . . or hearing that God laid your son on your own mother's heart days before anything came to light. He is 10 steps ahead of me . . . leading the way . . . weaving our story, painful parts and all, into a masterpiece. I choose to keep believing.
Stacy Lee Flury - April 24th, 2016 at 1:53 PM
I'm glad to see parenting teens in crisis highlighted. When I struggled with my own teen, there was very little in resources, support, and guidance. Many parents felt shame, embarrassment and guilt. After getting through the biggest of hurdles, my teen said, "Mom, please don't let other teens go through what I have been through." I, in return, replied, "I don't want to see other parents go through what we have been through either." With her support and permission, AnchorOfPromise.com was born. A Christian support blog for parents with teens in crisis. Relying on God for our hope and answers. Thank you for sharing your post. Blessings!
Tula` - May 3rd, 2016 at 10:18 AM
How many of those parents allowed their kids to be spoiled brats with little to no discipline? How many of those who were financially secured choose to spend more time working than raising their kids monitoring their actions?
How many of those parents failed as parents meaning spend their time in bars, shopping, leaving their kids with their friends and did not take time to get to know their friends family? How many of those parents were self centered and as long as they had a baby sitter allowing them to do their things failed to spend time with their children? How many of those children had great parents who worked hard to give them a good home and education and spent time with them rebelled and made bad choices and now the parents have to deal with their crap or as you say crisis? Please... If someone has made up their minds to destroy themselves what can you do to stop them? Yes, support them but not to the point it put you in misery.. There are consequences in life for negative behavior, it is called reaping what you sowed. It not like these kids are or were forced fed drugs or alcohol, it was a free will choice and now they are living with their decision like adults live with the decisions they've made. Addictions are self inflected illnesses and of them comes many of the mental illness issues today.

BE NOT DECEIVED GOD IS NOT MOCK IF YOU SOW TO FLESHLY LUST YOU WILL REAP SINS REWARDS.
Roberta - May 17th, 2016 at 3:01 PM
Tula,
I'm sorry, but I cannot let this be the last comment in the chain. My best friend has a daughter with severe emotional issues. Cutting, etc. Her mother dedicates her life to her daughter. The family lives just above poverty because her mother does not leave her alone. For months she was never left alone, even at night, because of the mother's fear of her daughter cutting too deeply and having another emergency room visit.

An 11 year old girl is too young to "reap what she sows." There are enough people out there who will react with judgement against a child who is emotionally ill. This is not the place.

I am so sorry for the families who have suffered with a mentally or emotionally ill child. I pray God gives you strength and peace.
Stacy Flury - May 28th, 2016 at 12:11 PM
I totally agree with you Roberta! As someone who writes a blog for parents with teens in crisis, you are right on! I do agree with some of the things that Tula said, but there are different groups that this applies to and it should have been noted.
Morgan - May 23rd, 2016 at 9:36 AM
I can really relate to this post. my son has always had anger issues and substance issues and has recently told us the extent to his depression, so due to recent events we have decided to finally put him into counseling and he has been doing so much better. We really did not know if his lifestyle should be considered troubling or if it was just a phase. With regards to medication, I personally feel as though the issues with my child need to be confronted with counseling at the beginning and mending the emotional issues before covering the issues with medication. Like I said, having someone to talk to like a counselor or therapist makes it very helpful for teens to open up. Here is a helpful link I found to help me decide how to help him, the site also has online counseling for teens and parents. http://crosswindsyouth.org/troubled-teen-infographic/
kim - August 3rd, 2016 at 10:04 AM
Here is my story to the world on how i got my love back and saved my marriage. I really love James so much that i can not even do without. I was married for 7years with 2kids and we lived happily until things started getting ugly and we had fight and argument almost every time... it got worse at a point that he filed for divorce... I tried my best to make him change his mind & stay with me because i love him with all my heart and didn't want to lose him but everything just proved abortive... He moved out of the house and still went ahead to file for divorce... I pleaded, cried and tried everything but still nothing worked. The breakthrough came when someone introduced me to this wonderful man who eventually helped me out with spell... I have never done things like this before but just decided to try reluctantly because I was desperate and left with no choice... He did special prayers and used herbs... Within two days james called me and was sorry for all the emotional trauma he had cost me, moved back to the house and we continue to live happily, the kids are happy too and we are expecting our third child. I have introduced him to a lot of couples with problems across the world and they have had good news... Just thought I should spread my experience cause I strongly believe someone out there needs it. You can email DR Thomas via (drthomasherbalhome21@gmail. com) Don't give up just yet, the different between "Ordinary" & "Extra-Ordinary" is the "Extra" so make extra effort to save your marriage/relationship if it's truly worth it.
Joe Bigliogo - September 10th, 2016 at 2:32 PM
One point that needs emphasized, please don't confuse rejection of Christian beliefs with rebellion and deviancy. I sense many Christian parents are tempted affix such labels to sons/daughters who no longer buy into their formative faith. If your teen no longer believes in god, is an atheist or has a strongly skeptical view of the doctrines being preached, treating them as if something is wrong with them will only strengthen their resolve and achieve the opposite of your intentions. Pushing church and your faith on them when they are conscientiously opposed to it may also drive a wedge between you and your teen.

You enjoy the freedom to choose and follow your preferred faith. Shouldn't young people be given this same human dignity even if their beliefs depart from yours? Freedom of religion isn't just for Christians.
Anonymous - November 14th, 2016 at 12:37 PM

(ravidattvyas522 @ gmail. com) is a wonderful spell caster. Very trustworthy, he just restored my marriage.
iSLAND STYLE - November 21st, 2016 at 2:10 AM
THANK YOU FOR THE READING, MY FAMILY AND I ARE FACING CHALLENGES WITH OUR 12-YEAR OLD, WHO HAS FOUND MORE COMFORT ON THE STREETS IN HIS RUN AWAY EPISODES. HE HAS GONE FROM HONOR ROLE STUDENT, TO A STUDENT, WHOM THE EDUCATION STAFF IS SOMEONE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THIS 2ND QUARTER FROM SCHOOL. WE'VE ALLOWED HIM TO TEMPORARILY LIVE WITH HIS GRANDPARENTS, HIS BEHAVIOR, LEADS ME TO BELIEVE THE SAFETY OF OTHER HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS ARE AT RISK, IF HE IS IN THE HOME. HIS LIES, HAVE NOW CPS IN OUR HOME, AND HAS COMPLETELY DECEIVED MANY. AS, YOUR ARTICLE STATED, BLAME GAME IS QUICK TO POINT AT THE PARENTS, AND OTHERS TO BE JUDGEMENTAL. IN THE THREE WEEKS, HE HAS BEEN WITH HIS GRANDPARENTS, WE'VE HAD 5-CALLS FORM THE SCHOOL. FROM BULLYING , TO THE POSSIBLE SELLING OF MARIJUANA AT MIDDLE SCHOOL. MY IN-LAWS BELIEVE, AND STATE, WHY IS EVERYONE PICKING ON MY SON, BUT THEY ARE FINALLY GETTING A VIEW OF HIS TRUE BEHAVIOR. I'VE RECENTLY READ ARTICLES ON ODD AND BI-POLAR. RIGHT! EVERY PARENT DOES NOT WANT TO BELIEVE ANYTHING LESS, THAN THEY HAVE A "GOOD KID". WE ARE LEARNING OUR SONS BEHAVIOR, IS NOT A REFLECTION OF OUR PARENTING, BUT A TRUE REFLECTION OF OUR CHILD, MAKING HIS OWN CHOICES TO DO WHAT HE DOES. HE'S BEEN IN THERAPY, BUT ONLY LATELY HAVE WE ENTERTAINED THE BI-POLAR/ODD AVENUE. WE REMAIN CONSTANT IN PRAYER AND LEAN INTO OUR FAITH, THAT ITS JUST A PHASE...BUT, WE NO LONGER OBSERVE OUR SON BEFORE US WHEN WE SEE HIM CASUALLY OR AT CHURCH...ITS AN EMPTY FACE OF NO REMORSE. HE HAS STOLEN FROM US, LIED, AND RUNWAY NUMEROUS TIMES, HE'S DECEIVED MANY ABOUT BEING ABUSED - AND KIDNAPPED, BY A LINE OF CHARACTERS, WE WOULD LIKE TO BELIEVE, BUT WE ARE TRULY SEEING THE MANY STORIES AND LIES COME TO LIGHT. MY SON'S GRANDPARENTS, THIS IS THEIR "BRAT", AND ARE IN COMPLETE DENIAL OF HIS ACTIONS, AND AS HE LIVES WITH THEM...THEIR MODE OF CORRECTION/CONSEQUENCES, IS REAL A VERBAL"STOP YOUR BEHAVIOR, DON'T DO IT AGAIN"... THEY ARE REALLY PASSIVE, AND IT FEEDS HIS BEHAVIOR. THANK YOU TO ALL THE CONTRIBUTORS TO YOUR BLOG HERE, ITS REALLY APPRECIATED. ALOHA AND MAHALO!!!
luara - November 23rd, 2016 at 8:21 PM
Thank goodness for your wonderful help and prayers Diviner Odi. My son Stephen is now well and have quit drugs and alcohol. I was making all efforts to make my son Stephen quit drugs. He was addicted to drugs for the past 13 years. He had made my life a living hell and that of his siblings. His late Dad developed a heart attack and died as a result of when Stephen was caught with cocaine and sentenced to 6 years in prison. He steals from me to buy drugs when he has no money. Sometimes, i do pity him when he sit down crying like a child when he does not have the money to buy the drugs and alcohol. He has been taking to rehabilitation centers, yet he did not change.I came across a testimony of a man on a prayer blog of how Diviner Odi helped his daughter to quit drugs. I wrote Him, and i was told what to do, in 5 days, my son quit drugs and alcohol. thanks to Diviner Odi for his prayers. If anybody on this blogs needs his help you can contact him via his email address: latterdayassembly@gmail.com


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