I am the father of two daughters, one who is eighteen and the other who is five years old. My wife and I don’t have any marital problems, but five years ago we began to have difficulties with our oldest daughter. The worst happened when she began to attend the university, for even though we asked her to not be like her friends, following their lifestyles, she has done exactly that in complete defiance of our family and of God. The arguments have become unbearable.

I am so worn down… that I think I’m not worth anything anymore…. I feel increasingly more isolated from people. I don’t like talking to anyone, and prefer to be shut up in my office working. It’s a tragedy; I’ve even thought of committing suicide! I can’t sleep. I feel that I failed as a father, and I know that I failed God.

Dear Friend,

We are so sorry to hear about your situation! Like many other parents, you have tried to teach your children good moral values and to make wise choices, but it sounds like your older daughter is choosing to turn her back on what she has been taught.

What you describe is unfortunately very common. Young adults, under the influence of their friends (and sometimes liberal professors), often rebel against the values of their parents. They take advantage of newfound freedom to engage in potentially dangerous behaviors, such as sex, drugs, and alcohol.

Many scientists believe the average brain doesn’t fully develop into its adult state until age twenty or later. Before that time, the young adult’s brain is lacking in impulse control and the ability to think ahead, or to see the connection between behavior and consequences. What seems obvious to you as an adult may be completely incomprehensible to your daughter. That is one reason why your arguments with her are so frustrating. To her, it’s like you are speaking another language.

You are completely mistaken to blame yourself for your daughter’s attitudes and actions. We have no way of knowing what your specific parenting was like, but many wonderful parents have children who rebel for a few years or for many years. Think of it like this: is God, our Heavenly Father, to blame because His children choose to disobey Him?

Many times the only way to influence an adult child is through the purse strings. Do not hesitate to withhold support or even housing from a young adult who will not follow your house rules and who will not cooperate as a member of the household.

Your depression and desire to isolate yourself are not helping you or the rest of your family. You must accept the fact that your daughter is responsible for her own poor choices. If you cannot do that, then you need to see a physician and talk to him or her about your depression and your thoughts of suicide.

Our Heavenly Father loves your daughter very much. When you are overwhelmed and cannot face another day, give the burden to God in prayer. As the psalmist David says, “Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you.”(1)

We wish you the best,

1 Ps 55:22