The parents of rebellious children desperately want their kids to straighten out their lives and fear the outcome if they don't. They also often find their marriage in crisis, because of guilt, blame or conflicting ways of approaching their wayward child.
Marriage and family counselor H. Norman Wright, the author of more than 60 books, knows first hand the corrosive effect a prodigal child can have on the parents' marriage. For four years, Wright and his wife, Joyce, watched and prayed for their daughter, Sheryl, as she stumbled through progressively more destructive stages of rebellion.
"You worry," he says, "not only about the prodigal's potentially dangerous lifestyle, but also about the real danger to your marriage."
Combining what he learned from his own experience with extensive research he's done, Wright wrote Loving a Prodigal (Chariot Victor Publishing) as a "survival guide for parents of rebellious children." He talked with Marriage Partnership at length about the marital difficulties experienced by parents of a prodigal.
First of all, how do you define a prodigal child?
A prodigal is someone who goes against the family's value system. A prodigal says, "I'd rather go this way, and I choose to reject all this over here." In a sense, it's going counter-culture to the way the person has been raised. Prodigals have an intensity in their rebellion that is missing in the actions of other highly disobedient kids.1