When Kids Walk Away

Sometimes kids go their own way. This can be positive or devastating depending on the situation. Let me clarify when I say kids, I mean your kids or mine. This has nothing to do with age since your kids are your kids all your life. We can guide them as dads only so far in life. Many fathers think they can force changes in the ways that their “kids” think or interpret life. There are standards and guidelines that we can implement or even demand under our roof. However, there are times when we can meet the brick wall. What do we do then?

Sometimes kids take a turn in their areas of interest and passion. This could be a healthy situation that we may initially interpret as bad. An example of this could be choosing a different path after high school graduation than what “you” planned. This happened with “ALL” 3 of my kids. However, all of them are more successful now than they probably would have been on “my” plan. It was not they “rebelled” against me. It’s just that they took life in a different direction. I’m so glad that I did not become a force of resistance or difficulty.

On the other hand, there are times when kids can walk away from our guidance in a very destructive way. There are those that will resist and not listen to anyone. I have one buddy whos son is battling alcoholism and legal battles. I can tell you that this does not stem from a lack of love on the part of the father. It is baffling to make sense of it. It is like the boy has completely gone deaf to correction or common sense.

Another situation hits closer to home for me. My wife had 3 daughters from her first marriage. Around 2005, they began to disassociate from her. We had no understanding as to what was happening. One by one from the oldest to the youngest over a period of about 4 or 5 months, they walked away and she has not seen them since. 

I have to confess that as a stepfather and a husband I was at a loss. There was never anything that could be interpreted as mistreatment by either my wife or myself. They just pulled away. My wife decided not to do a hard confrontation with either the girls or their other family. To this day we still don’t know what happened. I know it sounds weird and to me, a bit pathetic. I am a “fixer”. I want things to be right and make sense. Well, this time I had nothing to work with. I had no explanation, plan, fix, or understanding. Only dads that have been in this situation would understand.

As dads, we have a huge impact on our children. However, we cannot control and fix everything. Having an understanding of this did not come along until my kids were grown. I definitely did not have a clue while they were young. I was dad. Hear me roar. I saw other dads struggling and viewed them as weak or as not having it all together. My kids were going to stay on the path that I had envisioned in my head.

Does this give us an excuse to not assume responsibility for our role? Absolutely not! I believe that as a dad, we will be held accountable for our advice, parenting, and guidance beyond the years that our kids are at home. However, we must realize that these kids are individuals and not a mere extension of us. They are going to make mistakes. Choices are going to be made that would not have been ours. This does not mean that we should condone or enable them to live unhealthy lifestyles. Therefore we must examine the true nature of their decisions. If they go their own way on a topic, that is not always negative. If they choose a destructive path, that is altogether different. 

Unhealthy lifestyles are those that negatively impact them or those around them. What do you do? I first advise that you pray. Secondly, I advise that you develop a support system of family and friends that are willing to partner with you in addressing the situation. Finally, I advise that you get professional guidance and or clergy to run your ideas by. Develop a plan to best impact your wayward child. Gather information and discuss it with those you trust.

Some problems will not work out no matter what we do. This is a sad reality. It does not mean to give up on your kids, but sometimes we must seek damage control for the well-being of all those involved. Sometimes it requires us to make difficult and unpleasant decisions. This does not mean that we love them any less. Sometimes it means being willing to do anything to be the best dad possible.


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