Christian Children and Young Adults Caught in Addiction: A Parent’s Guide

Christian Children and Young Adults Caught in Addiction: A Parent’s GuideThere are few things more traumatic for parents than to watch their child fall victim to the grip of addiction. For the Christian parent, certain questions emerge. Our child grew up in the church, how could this have happened? We’ve never kept drugs or alcohol in the home, where did he get it? We’ve always preached the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, where did we go wrong? And certainly, what will people in the church think of us as parents and as Christians?

Pray without ceasing. Even committed Christians can make the mistake of seeing prayer as a last resort. When they have done everything they can think to do and none of it has paid off, then it’s time to pray. This time, put prayer at the beginning. Perhaps you suspect that your child is abusing alcohol, using drugs, or struggling with an eating disorder. You will need wisdom and direction beyond your own resources. Go to God immediately and ask Him to guide you.

Identify the problem. Before you or your child can receive help, you must be clear about the nature of the problem. Accusatory statements and temper tantrums are rarely effective. Talk to your child in a non-threatening environment and express your love and concern. Your child may confess to a problem, but he or she may not. Assure him or her that you are willing to listen calmly and to help where you can. Accept that that he or she may not be ready to talk about the issue or deal with it. Remind your child that the offer to listen calmly and to help will be there in the future.

Examine your own emotions. The emotions that dominate the Christian parent are primarily fear and shame. You fear for your child’s health, safety, and future. This is a natural parental response. But there is also a personal concern. What will people think of me as a parent? What will people think of our family? These personal emotions and feelings can motivate anger toward your child that is really anger at yourself and even anger at God. Be assured that your child’s addiction is not a reflection on you and your abilities as a parent. Be more concerned with how you can help your child than how you will look to others.

Be honest with your Christian community. Though we believe that our brothers and sisters in Christ form a community of love and acceptance, we still fear they may be judging us. Fear of judgment and suspicion may entice us to hide our struggle and try to bear it alone. We may feel the need to lie or evade questions about what is going on in our family. We must fight the temptation to maintain appearances. We must be bold and humble enough to set aside pride and admit that our family is broken and we need help.

Begin by talking to a pastor or elder. He or she will certainly assure you that you are not alone. Continue to maintain contact with this leader so that he or she may provide resources, counsel, and prayer.

If you are comfortable doing so, share the issue with your Bible study group, prayer group or Sunday school class. Let your Christian brothers and sisters support you, pray for you and help you at this time.

Seek professional help. Begin by exploring the resources at your church. Is there a therapist or counselor on staff? If not, can the pastor recommend a professional Christian counselor?

The skills required for dealing and living with an addict do not come naturally. The entire family is affected by the addiction and is in need of support. Family sessions can help siblings understand addiction and learn to respond to it.

Accept. Despite your best efforts and the support of your church, there may be nothing you can do to change your child’s behavior or to reverse this destructive path. Acceptance is not tantamount to giving up. It is the understanding that our human strength only goes so far. We must continue to trust God and pray for the healing of our child, but there is great freedom in letting go and letting God. We cannot know His methods or His timeline, but we may trust that His will is good and His purposes sure.