To the Heartbroken Mom of the Prodigal Child: Never Give Up

prodigal child

When my kids were little I wanted to know how to parent perfectly.

Give me a recipe and I follow it – to the letter.

The problem with a parenting formula is that the ingredients contain unstable elements like: human free will, sin propensity, and unique personality traits.

What happens when parents are blind-sided by their teen or young person’s decisions, choices, or sin-orientation?

One size does not fit all.

Parents negotiate hard places differently. It’s important to be respectful of how others approach a challenging situation.  

There are principles that are true for all challenges. How they are played out will be unique to the family, child, situation, struggle, and time. 

Be a Bridge-Builder.

Building bridges is the parent’s work when a child is on a detour. The relationship with your child may be strained but continue to reach out and let him know you love him and are there for him (even if he doesn’t respond). This is critical.

One dad continued to text his estranged daughter,  “Good night” and “I love you” almost daily for years. She rarely responded. Now, seven year later, his daughter has returned home. She knew she could come back.

Be a Grace-Giver.

Demonstrating grace and humility lets your child know you are approachable and love them unconditionally. Acceptance (or non-acceptance) of behavior isn’t the same as loving a person. We often disagree with folks we love.

Be a Truth-Teller.

This one can be tough. Speaking truth about what God’s best looks like takes an element of courage and a sensitivity to God’s perfect timing. Pray for the words and ask God when to speak them and how to speak them. It has helped me to do my homework so I can direct my child to God’s word when appropriate. (Ultimately my opinion doesn’t really matter) I want to be certain the truth I am speaking is God’s, not mine. I cannot control what my child does with this, that is between the individual and the Lord. (I am not the Junior Holy Spirit.)

Be a God-Truster.

God is not surprised when our kids take a detour. Even in His perfect garden, Adam and Eve had  free will and there was a snake slinking around.

Be a Prayer Warrior.

Always, continually pray that the Lord draws the child back to Himself.  No matter the wandering particulars, the relationship with Jesus is the main prayer.

Be a Hope-Holder.

Cling to hope. God can do all things.

Never, ever, give up.

Love never fails. 

1 Corinthians 13:8


Messy Journey is for parents walking the difficult road with a wayward child. Be inspired to drink the deep waters of peace as you draw closer to the Father of all prodigals. Author and licensed parent and family educator Lori Wildenberg offers practical grace- and truth-filled ways of navigating your relationship with a detoured child whether they are rejecting faith, dabbling in sin, or wholeheartedly embracing sinful behavior. Her words and counsel are authentic because she has been there with her own daughter. There is hope. After all, their struggle isn’t really with you, it’s with God.

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Lori Wildenberg
Lori Wildenberg is passionate about helping families build connections that last a life time. She is a licensed parent-family educator and co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting. She has written 4 parenting books with Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home published by New Hope as her most recent. She is a parent consultant, national speaker, and lead Mentor Mom over at the Moms Together Facebook Community Page. Lori is a contributor to a number of on-line magazines. Every Monday you can find her blogging about faith and family at Mostly, Lori is wife to Tom and mom of four. The Wildenbergs' home is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. A perfect day in Lori's world is a hike with her hubby, four kids plus a daughter-in-love, and Murphy the family labradoodle.