Parenting a Prodigal

I am learning how to be a friend to those who have prodigal children. Being the parent of a teen or young adult (or even the spouse of an adult!) who is making poor choices is a terrifying and lonely business. Parents suffer daily, struggle with guilt and “what ifs”, and are frequently alone in their grief and fear. Most of the time I personally have no idea what the right answer is to the myriad of dilemmas my friends face, but I am trying to learn how to be there for them and how to pray.

Here are some fantastic resources:

Prodigal Parent Process by Douglas Weiss. Dr. Weiss, drawing upon his thirty-plus years of experience working with prodigals and parents of prodigals, delivers biblical and practical tools to aid you in your journey to hope and healing. You can’t change the fact that you have a prodigal but you can set your mind upon how you will go through this journey with your prodigal. Great book to read (alone, with a friend or spouse, or in a small group). There are also dvds and he hosts a private Facebook page “Parents of Prodigals” that my friends have appreciated.

The Wounded Parent: Hope for Discouraged Parents by Guy Greenfield. Offers hope and practical guidance for parents who feel abandoned by God because their children have not turned out as they had planned. Professional counselor Greenfield provides both immediate and long-range help for parents whose children have rejected the spiritual values of their parents by choosing a value system and behavior pattern outside the evangelical tradition. This book also helps parents to rebuild the channels of communication with their children and to construct new relationships with them.

Prayers for Prodigals: 90 Days of Prayer for Your Child by James Banks. When you don’t know where to turn with tough questions and desperate thoughts, the pages of this book will point you back to God. Pastor James Banks shares experiences as father to prodigal children and provides insight from Scripture to guide parents through this time. Your faith and trust in God will be strengthened as you pray through the process of your child returning to what they know.

When I Lay My Isaac Down by Carol Kent. You’re never ready for calamity to strike. Carol Kent and her husband were devastated by the news that their son killed his wife’s ex-husband. Through all the challenges and his enduring prison time, they were buoyed in their faith by eight principles, gleaned from the story of Abraham and Isaac: the power of unthinkable circumstances, relinquishment, heartache, community, hope, faith, joy, and speaking up.

And two stories of returned prodigals that will give you hope:

Hope Lies Ahead by James Banks. Author of the prayer guide above shares his story of watching his son slip away to substance abuse, and how his prodigal returned.

Watching the Road by Karen Wheaton. The story of a mom praying for her daughter’s restoration.

Parenting is a challenging journey, but you do not have to do it alone. Find a friend who will commit to praying for your family and your prodigal, and ask them to read a book with you. May God strengthen you for the journey.