By Jennifer Waddle, Crosswalk.com
During the sweetest moments of parenthood, when our relationship with our kids is at its best, we cannot imagine a rift forming between us and those we love. However, at one time or another, most of us have had to work through difficult seasons and figure out how to make amends with our kids.
If this describes you, please know you're not alone. There are things you can do to start bridging the gap between you and your children. Here are a few things to prayerfully consider:
Ask Questions (But Be Ready for the Answers)
In some cases, parents are at a loss as to why there's a rift between them and their children. Somewhere along the way, the chasm began to form and grew wider with each passing year. It could be as minor as poor communication or as significant as an emotional wound that has never healed.
Asking heartfelt questions to get to the root of the issue is an essential step in amending your relationship. However, you'll need to be ready for the answers. Whether the conflict is your fault or not, chances are, your child will have a lot to say, and it might not be easy to hear.
Consider scheduling a private meeting with your child to ask them thought-provoking questions to help you understand where things went wrong. Be sure to stay calm and ask things in such a way that your child will feel free to open up to you. Here are a few questions you can ask:
- Was there a specific event that caused this rift between us?
- What could I have done differently? What can I do differently now?
- Are you willing to move forward with me in amending our relationship?
The important thing to remember is you might not get the answers you're hoping for. Be ready to receive whatever your kids tell you without letting defensiveness take over. This isn't easy, but, in the long run, your willingness to ask hard questions without becoming overly emotional will hopefully build a bridge of trust between you and your child.
A Prayer for Wisdom: Gracious God, I need your wisdom regarding my relationship with my children. Please, Lord, help me ask the right questions at the right time and bridge the gap between us. Thank You for giving me wisdom when I ask. In Jesus' name, amen.
Listen Well (Even When You Have a Lot to Say)
One reason kids feel disconnected from their parents is that they don't feel heard. Maybe your parenting style has always been to lecture and expect your child to remain silent. Or, it could be you are so desperate to amend the relationship you flood the conversation with everything on your mind. I get it. Listening well isn't always easy, but it's a huge step in letting your child know you care.
As most parents know, it's sometimes difficult to get kids to start talking, but if they know we are ready to listen without an agenda, there's a greater chance they'll open up. Even if you have a lot to say, try to listen first and listen well. Resist jumping in, interrupting, and trying to get your point across. A simple nod or statement such as "I never thought of it that way" will help keep the conversation going longer.
One more thing to note, as a word of caution, is the temptation to think about how you're going to answer while your child is speaking. When all we can think about is how we're going to respond, we aren't listening very well. King Solomon once said, "There's a time to be silent and a time to speak." (Ecclesiastes 3:7) The better you listen, the more opportunities you'll have to amend the relationship.
A Prayer to Listen Well: Lord, please help me listen to my children without needing to interject my opinions. Please provide opportunities for my children to access my undivided attention and prevent me from speaking too much. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Admit Faults (Without Excuse)
Admitting our faults doesn't come naturally. We tend to cover up our mistakes and try to forget them. But when it comes to faults with our kids, admitting them is a healthy step in moving past them.
Keep in mind that your child's view of things might differ from yours. You might be tempted to argue about the details when, in reality, there's usually a root issue that needs to be addressed. Try sticking to the main facts without getting lost in the mud. Be clear about your mistakes and admit them without making excuses. Even if your child doesn't accept your admissions right away, they will hopefully see that you've made an effort and are willing to accept how you've contributed to the problem.
In some cases, your child might bring up a fault that you have no recollection of. In that instance, be honest and let them know that even though you don't remember, you will take it to heart. Instead of telling them they are wrong, ask for time to process it and pray about it. This kind of response is difficult to argue and will let your child know you are committed to resolving the conflict.
James 5:16 is a good reminder. It says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
A Prayer for Our Faults: Gracious God, thank You for being faithful to forgive us when we confess our sins to You. Please help us confess our faults to our kids without making excuses. And please, Lord, heal our relationship with them. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.
Let Things Go (It's Almost Always Worth It)
There's a good chance you'll need to let things go when trying to make amends with your kids. Whether it be things they say or things they do, letting it go is often the best choice. This can be difficult, especially if we feel like we are owed an apology, but if possible, release the issue and move on.
James 3:17 says that wisdom from above is "willing to yield." As Christ-followers, we yield first to the Holy Spirit, but we also yield to one another in brotherly love. Our human nature is to hold onto things, but the nature of God is to forgive and let go.
Try to discern what things can be let go of and what needs to be addressed. Consider the following when trying to decide:
- Is this a root issue or a surface issue?
- Will letting go draw my child closer to God?
- What will likely happen if I let it go? What will likely happen if I don't?
As with many issues in life, things feel bigger in our minds when, in actuality, they are better left alone. Imagine the peace that would come if you let longstanding issues between you and your child go. It's definitely worth praying about as you seek to amend your relationship.
A Prayer to Let Things Go: Heavenly Father, You know how difficult it is for me to let something go, but I trust You to handle it. Please give me discernment as to which things I need to address and which things I need to release. In the holy name of Jesus, amen.
Realize it Might Not Happen (Yet!)
The more time that passes without amending our relationship with our kids, the more discouraged we become. However, we must realize that things don't always happen in our timing. Reconciliation might not happen - yet.
If this is where you find yourself today, give it time. Utilize this difficult season to pray and enlist a small prayer team of trusted people who will join you. Consider keeping a journal of the small wins - signs that God is working in your child's life and bringing them one step closer to a healthy relationship with Him and with you.
Often, our impatience stems from a heartfelt desire to make amends NOW, but our impatience can ruin the progress we've made and even push our kids further away. Ask God for a heart of endurance, remembering that it was His patience with you that eventually turned you to the Savior. As 2 Peter 3:15 says, "Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him." Realize you might not be making amends yet, but nothing is impossible with God. Keep persevering and trusting that God's got this. He's got you.
A Prayer for Perseverance: Holy God, please give me the strength to persevere with my children and not give up. Help me be patient in the waiting. Lead us to amend this relationship within Your timing. In Jesus' name, amen.
More Resources for The Journey:
Jennifer Waddle is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer, and is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, Abide, and Christians Care International. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com where you can find her books and sign up for her weekly post, Discouragement Doesn’t Win. She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.