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6 Ways to Live Without Guilt When Your Child Chooses a Different Path

Even when we don’t always love our children’s choices, we can let kids know we love them and want more than anything to stay connected.

We have a saying in the Church that “no other success can compensate for failure in the home.” That statement, frequently quoted by David O. McKay, no doubt reminds us that the work we do in our homes is vitally important. But for years that statement made me worry and wonder how I was measuring up as a parent.

When two of my daughters decided to leave the Church, I couldn’t help but think of this quote and feel that because I hadn’t succeeded in keeping my whole family active in the Church, I had somehow failed as a parent.

In my conversations with other parents whose children have chosen to leave the Church, I discovered that the sentiment of failure among parents is not uncommon. But parents don’t need to carry this burden.     

I love this quote by Harold B. Lee: “No home is a failure as long as that home does not give up.” To me, this means that the time or effort we put into our children is valuable and can lead to success. The goal is to keep on trying and keep on loving our children no matter what. It’s also important to realize that success in the home is measured along multiple dimensions. Whether your child believes in the Church is just one aspect of their journey and doesn’t have to be the only factor we consider when we measure our success as parents.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done. But it’s possible to get rid of some of that guilt and blame when your kids choose to live differently from what they were taught. Here are six lessons I’ve learned that have helped me navigate the difficult and often painful road of having a child choose a different path.

When your child tells you they don’t want to live the lifestyle you’ve taught them, it’s tough to hear. It can be easy to respond, “No, you don’t really think that way” or “Too bad—it’s my way or the highway,” but those kinds of reactions can be destructive and damaging. Listen to your child and try to figure out why they feel the way they do. Find out the reasons behind what they’re saying and stay curious about where their thinking is taking them. Always show love, and remember that a little understanding goes a long way. And if they don’t want to talk, that’s okay too.

When a child is still living at home, parents do their best to teach them whatever they possibly can about being a good person, living the gospel, and how gospel principles can benefit their lives. But at the end of the day, it’s up to children to use their agency to choose what they believe.

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