Parents of Prodigals

by Debbie Collins

“If you just disciplined your children better, they wouldn’t have these problems.”

Ugh. Sound familiar? Few situations make a parent feel more helpless than watching a child struggle with painful issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, learning differences, social difficulties, or mental illnesses like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. When two or more of these problems present at once, the panic and isolation can be debilitating – a parent just can’t make any sense out of it. And when domestic abuse is also a factor (which it often is) the chaos can feel hopeless.

I get it. 

Years ago, this was me. I was a newly-divorced single mom facing some of these issues alone. Raising teens without a father-figure (or financial support) is difficult enough. But I soon found that no one in my circle could identify, much less offer practical help. Over and over, I found myself subjected to ridicule and shame in the disguise of advice (like the unhelpful quip about discipline, above).

I began to feel like Job sitting in the ashes while his friends blamed him for his own troubles.

I could find no professional help in the area, either, and I found myself having to travel for hours, sometimes out-of-state, to get the help and support I needed.

Over time, I learned about tough love, codependence, chemical dependency, eating disorders, and the Twelve Steps. I attended groups, worked with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), sought the advice of LCDCs (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselors), and trained as a leader in Celebrate Recovery (a Christian 12-Step program).

I learned to use tools such as the Life Recovery Bible to address all kinds of “hurts, habits, and hang-ups” (after all, Jesus taught the original principles of today’s Twelve Steps right there in the Sermon on the Mount).

I learned that when parenting prodigals, the usual parental support can end up being codependent (and what to do instead).

And I came to understand how people try to fill in the “holes in their souls” with anything and everything 𝘣𝘶𝘵 God, then find out when they reach rock bottom that God has been there all along.

I have learned what it takes to get through this.

As a Christian Life Coach, I draw on my own extensive experience and my community college career to design individualized plans to help young people and their parents shorten the painful emotional journey and return to a state of wholeness. 

While my groups and individual life coaching sessions are not a substitute for work with an LPC or LCDC, I can help provide a safe emotional environment to work through many of these issues.

There is hope. Parents of Prodigals don’t have to “go it alone”.

The initial 15-minute consultation is free. Call me, or visit Let's make a plan together!

Katherine Bell Thomasy