What Should We Do When Our Kids Are in Crisis?

Marina and Gregory Slayton.
Marina and Gregory Slayton. | (Photo: Courtesy Thomas Nelson)

"Mom Says/Dad Says," an exclusive Christian parental advice column by Gregory Slayton, former U.S. Ambassador to Bermuda and author of the best-selling book Be a Better Dad Today: Ten Tools Every Father Needs, and his wife, Marina Slayton, author of the new book Be The Best Mom You Can Be. The Slaytons have been featured on Fox and Friends, Focus on the Family Radio and numerous other media outlets. They donate 100% of their royalties from parenting books to fatherhood and family nonprofits.

Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, Governors Jeb Bush and Sam Brownback and Pastors Tim Keller and Luis Palau, among others, have endorsed the Slaytons. In their exclusive series for The Christian Post, both Marina and Gregory will answer thoughtful Christian parents seeking to raise their children up in the goodness of the Gospel and the Glory of God. If you would like to have Marina and Gregory answer your questions, please contact them via

Parent's Question: our teenager (late teens) is spiraling downwards. A combination of drugs, alcohol, and a destructive lifestyle has left him a shell of his former self. What should we do?

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Mom Says: there are no easy answers when our kids (young or old) get into the type of crisis situation you describe. But serious action is definitely called for. Since your boy is still legally under your control, do be sure to get him the medical and psychological help he needs. If he refuses to get or accept help, it might be time to stage what we in the US call an 'intervention.' This is a meeting where all of your boy's family and serious minded friends (not his party buddies) get together to deliver one unified message: "We love you and we're here to tell you: YOU HAVE A REAL PROBLEM AND YOU NEED SERIOUS HELP." There are many different ways to do an intervention, but they all have three common themes: love for the person in difficulties, tough truth from all present, and a sincere desire to help.

Get an expert to help you make sure the intervention is as effective as possible. Be sure to follow-up strong. Don't wait and don't put it off. The next step for your son may be the morgue … or jail. The kind of problems you describe almost never solve themselves. Finally, don't forget to pray. Serious personal problems almost always have a spiritual component. Of course there are other components are well (emotional, physical, etc.). But don't ignore the spiritual dynamic, which can include a badly distorted self-image. Prayer is a key in this area, along with counselling and other active help.

Thanks for being honest about your son's challenges. In being honest, you've taken the first step towards truly helping your son. Without an honest recognition of the problem there can be no resolution. So it's a good start. May God bless you and your son in what usually is a long and difficult healing process.


Dad Says: I'm so sorry to hear of your difficulties. But do not think that you are alone. More families than you would think suffer from these type of crisis. And race or income or educational levels don't protect any family from these disasters.

Today I'd like to speak to all readers, not just those whose children are already in crisis. That is because the key is to recognize and confront the problems our children face BEFORE they become full blown crisis. We've known families where children have committed suicide and the parents said they had 'no idea.' As hard as that is to believe, it is probably true. Parents who are completely out of touch with their kids don't see the warning signs, so they have 'no idea' what happened when a disaster occurs. Don't be like that. We must pay attention to our kids, listen to them, try our best to understand where they are emotionally.

When you detect a problem, and usually it's the mom who will detect the problem first, don't ignore it. Don't hope it will go away. It probably won't. Step up your involvement in that child's life. Talk with his/her brothers and/or sisters. Talk to his/her teachers. Really find out what is going on. If possible, try to gently steer your child back to the right path. Make sure they know how much you love them. Spend more quality time with them. Listen carefully. Love them abundantly in ways they understand. But also be honest with your child. Don't sugar coat it. And if that doesn't work, take stronger steps. Get professional counselling. Do whatever it takes.

We actually moved from one part of the US to another to help one of our children get out of a very destructive environment. For another of our kids we helped them change from one school to another. The point is this: don't just let a crisis sneak up on you and your family. Pay attention. Get active. Get help. Do whatever it takes. Our children are our most important investments. By far. And if we lose them to drugs or suicide or other destructive behaviors…we can never get them back. So don't allow that to happen, recognize and confront problems early and diligently.

In our increasingly dysfunctional world, our kids are faced with challenges and choices we never had. Let's help them as much as we can to avoid life destroying disasters. We owe it to them to do our very best.

Onward and Upward!!


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