How to Survive as the Parent of a Prodigal

I never thought it could happen to me. One day things were fine and the next my life and family were spiraling out of control. Fear gripped me with a stranglehold.


My husband and I did all the right things. We took our children to church, prayed with (and for) them daily, and raised them in a godly environment. They went to Sunday school, VBS, and Christian camps. Our children never listened to secular music or read secular books. They could quote Scripture verses and knew all the words to the most popular Christian songs. Born again and baptized at a very early age, they were good, upstanding, obedient kids.

What could have possibly gone wrong?

How to Survive As The Parent of Prodigal

How to Survive As The Parent of Prodigal Young Man Looking Away

The staggering truth is: Even good kids rebel—and even good parents can end up with a prodigal. Or in my case two.

If you’re dealing with a prodigal, you’re probably asking all the questions I did. Why, God? Why me? How could you let this happen? What am I supposed to do? Where are you?

For over five long years I struggled with all the frustration, guilt, and anger associated with rebellious kids. I cried myself to sleep at night and wondered why God gave me children in the first place if I couldn’t handle parenthood. I got so caught up in the blame game that my relationship with the Lord suffered, along with everything else in my life. And I continued to battle worry and fear.

But God wouldn’t let go. Even when I tried to stop praying—thinking my prayers were literally bouncing off the ceiling—He prompted me to keep praying His promises over my children daily and believe He would honor His Word.

Then one day the answer came, and I knew my prayers had been heard all along. He not only delivered my children, He set me free from the paralyzing effects of worry, fear, guilt, condemnation, anger, and self-doubt.

I learned many lessons during that terrible time, but the most important one is that God is faithful, and His Word is true. I also learned not to ever give up on my children—or myself—no matter how bad or hopeless the situation seems.

Parenting Mistakes and Winning the Heart of Your Child

Here is a checklist I call a parent’s survival guide.

I didn’t know all these things—or practice them—at the time, but I pray they will help you walk through the fire of adversity with peace and confidence, knowing there is always hope for the prodigal.

  • Trust God with your whole heart. Keep your eyes on Him—not your problem.
  • Believe that His promises are true—and they are for you.
  • Cast your care on Him. Lay this burden at His feet and leave it there.
  • Commit your children to God. Pray for them daily without fail.
  • Love your children unconditionally.
  • Forgive your children.
  • Forgive yourself.
  • Don’t judge or condemn—your children or yourself.
  • Listen closely to your children and make time for them.
  • Respect their feelings.
  • Practice tough love. Hold your children accountable for their actions.
  • Be the parent—not the cool friend.
  • Don’t compromise or lower your standards.
  • Practice self-control. Learn to act—not react.
  • Learn the early signs of drug and alcohol abuse—and what to do about it.
  • Set boundaries and take charge but be flexible.
  • Don’t let your children demand privileges.
  • Find Scriptures that speak specifically and directly to you. Confess them daily.
  • Don’t be afraid to vent to God. Tell Him how you feel. He already knows.
  • Seek godly counsel. Don’t try to carry this by yourself.
  • Don’t take bad behavior personally or become angry, bitter, and resentful.
  • Avoid gettting caught in the blame game.
  • Let the peace of God rule in your heart. Allow His joy to be your strength.
  • No matter how tempting it might be to quit—never give up on your children.

Excerpts taken from Praying for the Prodigal, published by Straight Street Books, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Used by permission.

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How to Parent Your Prodigal Child Series Contributor:

Andrea Merrell is an award-winning author and professional freelance editor. She is an associate editor with Christian Devotions Ministries and LPC Books/Iron Stream Media and was a finalist for the 2016 Editor of the Year Award at BRMCWC and the 2018 Excellence in Editing award by the Christian Editors Network. Andrea is a graduate of Christian Communicators and was a finalist in the 2015 USA Best Book Awards and the 2018 Selah Awards, as well as a semi-finalist in the 2018 ACFW Genesis contest.

She has been published in numerous anthologies and online venues, teaches workshops on writing and editing, and is the co-founder and regular contributor to, a blog designed specifically for writers. Andrea is the author of Murder of a Manuscript, Praying for the Prodigal, and Marriage: Make It or Break It. Andrea has a passion to help others see God’s Word as relevant and practical for everyday life. To read her weekly devotions or contact her, visit

Need more support? Why not join our private Facebook Group Scripture Praying Moms as we seek to pray scripture over our children!






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