Q&A with Geoff: How Do I Keep Going When My Children Have Strayed?Feb 07, 2024
My husband and I have had a wonderful marriage to each other for almost 40 years. However, the experience of raising our eight children has, at times, been nightmarish. We have endured virtually every tragedy and disappointment that can befall a family (I won’t go into details to protect my family’s identity). Thankfully, our children are loving and kind – sweet to each other and us. They often don’t approve of each other’s behavior, but show support and try to understand one another. My angst includes the approaching wedding reception of my soon-to-be married son. He and his fiancée are partiers and drinkers. How are we to find the strength to go on with this? How do we celebrate or function (mentally and emotionally) at this kind of event? How can I keep from losing my mind? I just don’t know how much more I can handle. In our experiences we have been worn down and our approach to most things in life is quite reserved now. In other words our “joy” has been quieted. We are tired and truly tried. Can you offer any advice?
I am grateful to hear you have good relationships with your husband and children despite the painful experiences you’re all experiencing. I can only imagine how disheartening it must be for you to have a front row seat as you watch your children continue to make choices that contradict the values you taught them.
The best way to keep from going crazy is to make sure you’re not facing any of this alone. We are wired to reach out for comfort and support when we’re overwhelmed with fear and pain. Even though reaching out for relief is our default reaction, we often learn other unhealthy ways of coping with stress as we mature.
Sometimes we stay closed and suppress our emotions. Sometimes we turn to addictive substances or behaviors to quiet the fear. We may even create chaos around us to keep from feeling overwhelming pain.
Reaching out when we’re in pain, especially chronic emotional or physical pain, will provide more support and relief than virtually anything else you can do.
Clearly, you have your husband to provide emotional comfort, as long as you’re opening up to him about your struggles. This may seem strange, but I also recommend you continue to reach out to your children and connect to them in the ways they’ll receive you. Staying connected to them will keep you from feeling isolated from them, even though they don’t live life like you.
I have a friend whose son chose a life of drugs and distanced himself from the family. My friend realized the only way he could physically connect with his son was to attend his son’s smoke-filled bar band concerts every weekend. He would show up at the bar to watch his son’s band play music he didn’t care for in an environment he detested. However, he knew he was able to be with his son, even for a couple of hours each week.
Sometimes we feel anxiety that we have a responsibility to fix or change our family members. Your children will benefit from your calm connection and loving presence.
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