Many people are so excited when their children finally leave home. They immediately think, "Free at last, free at last; now we can pick up where we left off." Parents of a functional family often feel just that way. But what happens when a child leaves because they have felt dominated, controlled or rejected, or that their parents were proud and hypocritical, and they could never measure up?
Such a child will only return to the home when his or her parents have realized their child left to get away from pain caused by their parent's faults and failures. Yes, the parent did the best they could, given what they had been dealt. Many of these issues were generational. The pattern repeats with each generation and rarely is overcome. How does a parent learn from their mistakes once their hurting child has left to find their identity and place in the world?
This kind of child is more common than people want to admit. There are really very few families where a child escapes heart pain. The children of a dysfunctional home leave for a reason. These children, once gone, rarely call home. Nor do they do not try to connect when you call them. They want to remain at arm's length now that they are out in the big, wide world. Parents of these "wounded walkers" often blame each other that their child fled and refuses to connect on a heart level.
"Only if you hadn't been into porn," one will say.
"But if you hadn't tried to fix everything and make it look perfect..." the other will reply.
If the prodigal's parents want their adult child to return home, they must first connect with each other. They must stop blaming each other. They must stop returning evil for evil. They must earnestly try to care for each other's hearts on a daily basis. When they have genuinely re-connected with each other, their children will see a difference and one by one return to the nest for their own healing.
It is almost impossible to find a truly fully functioning family these days. People hide behind a veneer of happy, joyful relationships; but if you ask someone what is really going on inside, they either will not know what you are talking about, or they will make up something that is simply not true. Often, they are not even connected enough with their own hearts to answer that question. If you asked a wounded walker what their heart looks like, they might say, "It's red, squishy and pumping blood." Or they might simply not know what you are really asking. Many young adults today are weighed down with the cares of the world, lust for approval, or fears of rejection.
Often such an adult child finds himself in the role of a victim. He is so used to physical, emotional, sexual, or spiritual abuse, he cannot break free from living in that pattern. A parent can love that child from a distance by merely listening without judging; if they are fortunate enough to receive a phone call wherein their child opens up about a problem or situation, they can remain neutral, caring and totally avoid any element of surprise or shock in their voice.
A parent can say, "I want you to know I really care about what you are going through and how it is confusing, hurting, or in any way making you feel. Your pain is important to me, and I will be here whenever you want to talk." If the child wants advice, she will ask for it. It is not advisable to give counsel, unless they specifically ask for it.
The two parents can discuss the child's situation with each other and agree on what the child might do without owning their child's pain or issue. They can care for that child, let them know they care, and send a favorite baked good or new shirt. There are many ways they can try to connect to care for their child.
Above all, parents should not blame each other or their own failures for their child's situation. They also should not blame their child. The best parting words for parents to leave with their prodigals are these famous last words: "It's not your fault."
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I feel that this article has been written very intelligently and insightfully. I hope that it gets in the hands of those who need to read it most. Sadly, not every parent reading this will see where they need to change. But there are always a few that will take it to heart.