Parenting an adult child is both a joy and full of landmines and challenges. Each stage of my children’s development has been a pleasure, and when my oldest reached for more independence, I loved watching him gain confidence in purpose and character.
I dreamed and hoped my children would embrace faith, enter adulthood equipped to succeed at whatever job they set their mind to, and live life to the fullest. I had no illusions that life would throw challenges their way; my life had been anything but easy. But couldn’t I hope for better? Was it unrealistic to believe that good would ultimately result from “raising them right?”
No, not unrealistic.
We have an enemy seeking to crush and destroy families, young and old. Enter health issues, unbridled stress, and ultimately the suicide for my barely adult son, Jonathan. Before his death, I had to navigate the difficult world of an adult child who battled mental and physical illness. He held all the rights and responsibilities of an adult and the core of my hands-on care for him was over. He could refuse any help offered, yet he was in crisis.
From those difficult months, I learned to:
Pray and trust God with what I could not see
Recognize that my child’s choices were his own
Parenting is a joy, but when tragedy strikes it cut to the core of my parenting heart. I am grateful others helped by holding me, lifting Jonathan in prayer, and reaching out to him.
You may be in the midst of a similar crisis with your adult child. My recent interview with Teresa Janzen identifies some tools we all can utilize as parents of adult children. I pray God’s wisdom, discernment, and joy for you as you navigate the new relationship that emerges when your children embrace adulthood.
Turning Your Page: Tools for Parenting an Adult Child in Crisis
We hope as parents to raise our children, equip them to the best of our ability, and that their life is full and trouble-free. Scripture makes it clear, that in this life we will have troubles, but as parents, we can take heart. Jesus Christ has overcome the world. (John 16:33).
You may have questions, such as:
How do we care for our adult children who are in crisis?
What does scripture say about our role as parents?
How can we find support and help?
Lord, things are shifting and changing in my relationship with my adult child and my role as a parent is getting redefined. Help me to love them in the same way I love my neighbor. Amen
Interview with Teresa Janzen
Teresa Janzen Bio:
Teresa Janzen is an author, speaker, storyteller, and African explorer. She engages big issues and extends an invitation to thoughtful dialogue. More than 20 years’ experience in non-profit administration and global ministry has ignited this passion for missional living and drives her to share stories that inspire people to action, joy, and gratitude.
Teresa is married to Dan and together they bridge two cultures and continents—serving as missionaries in South Sudan. They have eight adult children and ten grandchildren in the USA.
is no degree needed to help others, whether you are caring for a loved one or
ministering to others wrestling with depression. Jesus used fishers of men.
Patty testifies, in her
book Finally Free: Breaking the Bonds of Depression Without Drugs, that
the only requirement is that others can seeâ€”you’ve been with Jesus.
If you are in the Nashville, Tennessee area, Patty is hosting a book launch on Monday, September 30th, from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm at Branches Counseling Center in Murfreesboro. Come meet Patty and be encouraged by her testimony. It was a pleasure presenting Patty’s story to you.Â Â
to meditate on:
follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for
people” (Matthew 4:19).
they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled,
ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been
with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
About seven years after your experience, you became the caregiver for your
husband as he too battled depression. What words of encouragement do you have
is challenging to take care of someone who is battling depression, so do not
feel guilty for taking care of yourself, it is vital. You will also feel a lot
of emotions yourself, maybe even frustration or anger. Don’t beat yourself up
for feeling that way, many of those feelings are perfectly normal emotions.
This is a lot to take on.
How does a caregiver take care of themselves during their loved one’s crisis?
well, stay hydrated, make sure you are getting enough rest, stay in the Word.
In fact, my relationship with the Lord went to a whole new level. I clung to
Him during that season of my husband’s depression. Join a support group. Get
into a bible study. Take breaks. Go have lunch with a friend. Take a bubble
bath. Give yourself time to recover and recuperate.
Is the Bible silent on depression and our response? How can we encourage others
through God’s Word?
Bible is not silent on depression. Even though it doesn’t use the word depression, it
uses words like despair, gloom, downcast, oppressed, misery. God’s Word is
life. Continue to speak that Word of life over people. I encourage others to speak God’s Word out
loud. Often, I would take the Bible and march through my home and proclaim the
Word of God out loud.
Why is it easy to hide depression?
it is not easy to hide depression. It’s work. It’s a conscious choice to hide the depression. There’s a
stigma, and as Christians
aren’t we supposed to be exuding peace and joy? Arenâ€™t we supposed to be happy all of the
time? We don’t want
to admit, especially to our church, we are not okay. We come to church and
often wear the mask more because we think we have to look like weâ€™re okay.
As a newly freed from depression, a believer in Christ, what training did you
receive to share hope to others?
I was just invited to share my story. God gave me a testimony, and testimonies have a way of reaching people in
ways nothing else can.
What does the church do well in addressing depression?
church is really good at encouraging people to stay in the Word. They can be a
wealth of information and can
help you find direction. They can guide you to counselors, resources,
and contacts to find help. I would like to see church leaders receive training
on depression and how to handle depression, rather than referring them to others. It would be great if people could
actually come to someone in leadership who knows how to talk with them, direct
them, and help them see the root. In Finally
Free, I offer tips on how to handle someone who comes to them with
In what ways does the church need to grow in its response to believers
wrestling with depression?
mentioned in Finally Free, it’s important to treat
the whole personâ€”body, soul, spirit.
pastors and leaders that their input, encouragement, and inspiration as a
spiritual leader is so important, because the spiritual
element of the treatment plan is often missing.
What should be the church’s response to unbelievers struggling with
was a non-believer battling depression. Once I started to turn to God, that is
when I was set free from depression. In the book, I address depression from a Biblical perspective. For example, sin and
rebellion can bring on depression. Living separated from God and doing our own
thing can bring on depression. I was released from depression by turning to
Jesus and allowing God to be my life.
How does a church begin developing a ministry of awareness and discipleship for
those wrestling with depression?
offer basic training for the church. Our materials help train leaders to see
and address depression from a biblical perspective. We explore the causes of
depression from God’s Word and what God says will help cure that depression.
“â€¦unless we’re familiar with depression, it can go undetected until
something drastic happens.” What should we watch for in our loved one?
for changes in their normal behavior. Is there a change in eating
habitsâ€”gaining or losing weight? Do they start sleeping more than normal? Do
they start turning to drugs and alcohol? Are they pulling away from friends or activities they once
you are dealing with a teenager, it can be difficult to determine if they are
dealing with depression or if it is peer pressure, academic stress, lack of sleep, or a bad
diet. This can be difficult for even a trained counselor to discern. I have a
teen and depression sheet that
offers keys to building communication with your teen, warning signs, knowing when to get help,
and helping your teen to beat depression, Iâ€™d be happy to send out if you email me at email@example.com
How can lay people reach into the lives around them struggling with despair?
Be supportive, don’t criticize or condemn what the person feels, even if what
they are saying doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes a depressed person just wants
to talk about what they are going through, and not feel like they are alone.
How can we pray for your ministry?
for Finally Free, that God would open doors and
allow us to continue to offer this message of hope. Pray for those reading it,
that their lives would be changed by hope and healing through Jesus.
You are not alone. There is hope. What I thought was devastation, God saw as an opportunity to draw me near and change the trajectory of my life. Depression is not the end; it can be the start of a beautiful beginning.
Patty Mason is an author, national speaker, and the founder of Liberty in Christ Ministries. For more than two decades, Patty has shared her story of Godâ€™s redeeming grace and deliverance from depression before numerous audiences, in several books, blogs, and magazines, such as Lifewayâ€™s â€œLiving More,â€ as well as radio and television programs, including American Family
A spark of hope in crisis starts with a willingness to engage others. That is how my testimony of my grieving with hope started in 2014. I didn’t one of his friends going through life not knowing that they were loved, seen, and valued by me. It was all I had to offer them, but that is powerful, and enough.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:12-13
Turning My Page
A chance encounter with Ginny Shepherd sparked hope in me. This petite dynamic woman has been a part of the fight against despair for a long time. The opportunity to interview her was a delight. May she inspire you to not feel helpless on either side of a crisis. We aid others in crisis through our sharing what gives us hope, as well as find the courage to press forward in our own journey through community.
Good-Bye was an opportunity to offer hope, for Ginny Shepherd, a five-year veteran of the crisis hotline in her region.
She has a long history of standing in the gap for those in crisis. Both her own family and anyone who crosses her path. Becoming a volunteer for a crisis-hotline and later a director of training, was a natural progression in her pattern of helping others.
Ginny and her siblings wrestled with many physical and emotional challenges after losing their father at an early age. This experience and its aftermath introduced her to both good and bad ways of handling trauma and depression. She was acutely aware of what worked in mental health care and what was utterly useless in helping those on the edge of suicide.
As an adult, working for many years in the education world, Ginny observed young men and women with various levels of complicated problems. She took the opportunity to listen, encourage, and find great resources of hope for her students. She often referred students to counseling, and or campus chaplains. A friendship developed with the on-campus chaplains and his wife, who were involved with the local crisis hotline.
When thinking about becoming a crisis hotline volunteer, Ginny says, “I resisted at first because I didn’t see that I had any kind of qualifications.”
Drawing on her own experience with tragedy, and help she offered her students, she thought the crisis training was at least worth exploring. “Serving as a crisis intervention worker is a great opportunity to learn about one’s ego. We become more aware of the voices inherited from our parents, family, ministers, and teachers that may not be the most helpful in being a pathway for a person in crisis to walk on. You want to serve as a bridge and conduit. Help the caller in crisis hear what they are saying and know they are being listened to. They are seen as a valuable person.”
Working a crisis hotline is not for everyone. Becoming aware of strengths and weaknesses is essential. “We learned the difference between empathy,” what we strive to practice, “and sympathy, defined as a negative emotion for a crisis worker. With empathy, one is, shoulder to shoulder with the caller, sort of at their side. With sympathy the tendency is sort of looking down on the caller. Training gave volunteers the opportunity to work out the bugs in their vocabulary.
We were not supposed to use the pronoun “you”, but it was easy to slip into giving the caller a to-do list.
For the fixer, it takes reprogramming responses to someone in crisis.
“Boy, we had excellent training,” Ginny declared. Professional psychologist, hospital workers, police and men, and women working the crisis phones for many years, equipped the trainees with confidence to stand in the gap for those in crisis. Much of the training involved role-playing. The trainer would take on the role of a caller, and the volunteer would respond. “We were taught to respect the place the caller is in. “And for heaven’s sakes, no judgments, and no guilt, no coercive language, no manipulation language, just trying to help the caller clarify in his or her mind what was going on. Clear away the static. When you are in a crisis, your blood pressure goes up, and your head feels like it’s pounding. It’s hard to think.
So much of the beginning of a crisis call is calming a person down by reassuring and listening.
Anyone in crisis, particularly the young, have so many thoughts and feelings jumbling around in their mind. They are not used to someone listening to them.” Once she began answering the crisis lines, regular in-service training increased her understanding of clients. The collaboration refreshed Ginny in the everchanging nature of the calls received.
Callers were not always someone you would sit across from and enjoy a coffee chat, Ginny explained. Learning to treat all callers as valuable took a lot of training. The crisis organization brought in a local director of a battered women’s shelter to help the volunteers understand and address the unique dynamics of domestic violence calls. Ginny learned that in domestic violence situations often the batterers are in as much internal pain as they inflict on their spouse. “That was a revelation to me.” She went on to say, one of the miracles of life is that God does love all, and that capacity of of offering the spark of hope in crisis is very difficult to achieve.
To spark life in desperate situations takes practice, accountability, and flexibility.
Ginny feels she received all of these gifts through the speakers and experts in the field.
Traumatic calls ranging from suicide threats, domestic violence to pedophiles and everything in-between are bound to take a toll on the strongest of volunteers, but Ginny credits her five-years service to the training received. The initial training always emphasized, you’re not here to tell people what to do, you are not here to solve their problem, you’re here to listen and to hold up that person so he or she can believe that they have the chance to solve their problem. Effectively, Ginny’s job was to give control over their problems, back to the caller. We practiced active listening. Reflecting to the caller what we hear them saying.
And if you get it wrong?
“Don’t worry they’ll tell you.”
The goal was to help the caller to experience that moment of thinking, maybe I could or maybe I can. As she helped the caller see they could work through their trauma, she says, “and then you cautiously lead them into a referral.
Connect them with the experts, the best possible resources.
Ginny adds, “There was always a professional on call, that if we got into a really difficult phone conversation, we could explain to the caller. I have another phone here to call someone to help me. Or, you could call someone after the phone call for help.”
She found herself in such a situation after a three-hour suicide call. “A tightrope-walking situation,” she says. The call started with just wanting someone to tell good-bye to but ended with a “well maybe I don’t need to say good-bye.” But Ginny still felt unsure, questioning if she had done all she could. She contacted the expert on-call, and he went through the call, reflecting her responses, and reassured Ginny she had done all she could to respect and offer hope to the caller.
Her recommendations to those who want to offer the spark of hope in crisis to others:
“We may fear that we don’t have the right words, but we can communicate to the person in crisis, contemplating suicide, that we see you, you are present in my life, and I care about your life.
I think all people crave to be understood and a common cry from a person is you don’t understand me. My best estimate of what to do is to say, Help me know you, help me to understand. That puts the power back into the hands of he or her who feels they have no power. Helps them to reach out on their behalf,” Ginny says.
Often call in because they feel no one in their sphere of influence understood. “You don’t know if a family member has just trodden into quicksand.” Our response should be, “Give me a chance, I’ll try.” In a call, there is always that moment where there is a spark of insight. There’s that first glimmer from them of ‘oh maybe.’ There’s a little spark of hope, and it is a very tender and tenuous moment. You wait to hear that in their voice and then tread very lightly. Ginny spent years listening for that spark, and you and I can hone the same skills.
Turning Your Page: Developing the Spark of Hope In Crisis
You may feel ill equipped to offer the spark of hope to those in crisis around you. But as Ginny shares, it does take training and practice to develop a consistent method of intervention, but there are lots of opportunities for training. Start where you are. The bottom line is that you have experiences and things in life that have torn you down and built you up. What are those, how did others help or hinder you? Utilze where you are and step into the lives of others. Sometimes the gift of your presence are all that is needed.
Write down the names of people in your life that have encouraged you and offered hope. Send them a note of encouragement or thanks.
Read 1 Corinthians 13 which is a guide for speaking life into others. What are some of the ways we can do harm to others? How can you show faith, hope, and love?
Write down a three minute and five minute testimony sharing what you have learned or are currently learning about hope
Lord, I need your spark of hope in my crisis. Use others to speak life when I am overwhelmed. Equip me to offer hope when I cannot see your faithfulness, promises fulfilled, or unconditional love. Amen