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Coping with Prodigal Children during the Holidays

Having a prodigal child can be a wearisome time for parents, but the holidays can bring even more difficulty. This is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year,” right? For some it is, and for others the reality of losses become more prominent. Memories of the past seem to flood your mind like never before. There is no doubt holidays, anniversaries, and other special occasions can be a painful reminder of what we have lost.

The reality is sometimes life hurts, and certain times are more painful.

Having a wayward child can be most challenging for the strongest of parents. You can look all around you, and see all the “happy families,” and get depressed and discouraged. Be on guard not to compare yourself with other families that you see in public or in movies. God has a unique plan and purpose for your child and for you.

Although there are many unhealthy ways to manage the holidays when your child is astray from you, I would like to share with you a few personal strategies I have used for coping through the holidays. It is important to implement as many of these healthier ways as possible to reduce depression and anxiety.

Tips for reducing stress and emotional discomfort:

  1. Pray for your child. Never give up on them, no matter how it looks. Have regular, intimate time with the Lord, where you are listening to His voice for direction and comfort. Speak life-affirming words and the Word of God over your child.
  2. Love your child right where they are at. Set the proper boundaries as needed, such as, no alcohol or drugs in your home or no entertaining overnight guests that your child is in a sexual relationship with. It is okay to set limits, but let them know you love them no matter their choices.
  3. Take care of yourself. Eat balanced meals, exercise, sleep at least 7-8 hours nightly, and make sure to do things you enjoy. Do not stay focused on your child the entire time. Yes, it is painful not to know where they may be or if you will see them during the holidays, but become a praying parent instead of a worrying, exhausted parent. Take time to pull back from “the crowds” as needed.
  4. CHOOSE to be thankful for the things that you do have. You may feel like there is not anything to be grateful for. You may be overwhelmed, heart-broken, and your faith may be frazzled, that is normal; but don’t stay that way!
  5. Learn the therapeutic value of journaling. There have been many studies conducted about the benefits of writing. You may not like to write, but I challenge you to give it a try. Healing can come from releasing your emotions.
  6. Do what you can do. You may not be up to attending every Christmas party. Be selective, and if you feel like going somewhere will hinder you emotionally, don’t go!
  7. Give back. Reach out to someone or an organization that needs a word of encouragement, a meal, or whatever you can provide. This will help with self-pity and ward off depression.
  8. Surrender ALL to God. Easier said than done, but with it comes peace and rest. You may have to hourly surrender your child, but do it anyways.

Resources for parents:

Hannah’s Cupboard: Praying for the Prodigal.

Parents of Prodigals

The Hurting Parent: Help for Parents of Prodigal Sons and daughters. By: Margie M. Lewis

Related article: How to stay stress-free during the holidays.


About Stephanie Reck

Stephanie has a heart and passion to see broken lives restored and redeemed through Jesus Christ. She writes through her personal experiences and her educational and professional background. She has over 17 years experience in counseling, and has a Master's degree in Social Work, Bachelor's degree in Psychology, and is a Licensed Belief Therapist. Stephanie has been married for 16 years,and has one grown son. Stephanie's desire through her writings is to bring hope and encouragement to the body of Christ, that no matter what you have been though or going through, there is restoration and redemption through Jesus Christ.

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  1. My babies are young yet and even at this tender stage — I still feel like sometimes the Lord reminds me, they belong to Him.

    “Do you trust me with them?” It seems like I hear this gentle question a lot. I do my part — be here for them and be a good example for them.

    This is a great piece!

    This article reminds me to appreciate them when their little.

    • Thank you very taking the time to comment. I value what you wrote. God has reminded me before that our children are given to us on a “loan,” but one day we will have to let them go and trust them to Him. During our short time with them, yes appreciate them while they are little and pray over them daily, teach them the ways of the Lord, and as you stated, ” be there for them and be a good example to them.”

      God often will ask us “If we trust those precious ones to Him.” Realizing that He created them, and He loves them more than we do, certainty helps.

      May the Lord bless your years with your children, and may your home be filled with the love and presence of Jesus Christ.

      ENJOY your babies, time does go by so quickly.

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