In a phone session with Gerald, one of my clients, he expressed to me that he was feeling very sad about his son, Luc. Luc, 29 years old, was not doing much with his life, and Gerald was berating himself for how he had parented Luc.

“I should have spent more time with him. I should have motivated him more. I should have been a better role model. I should have been more firm with him.” On and on he went, judging himself for how he had been as a parent.

“Gerald,” I said, “Luc is on his own soul’s journey. Even if you had been a perfect parent – and none of us really knows what that means – Luc might still be having the challenges he is having.”

“Really? Wow! That makes me feel much better! I never thought of it that way. Tell me more about what you mean by his own soul’s journey.”

“I mean that each of us comes here to learn certain soul lessons. Regardless of how good or bad your parenting was, Luc is on his own journey, making his own choices. You can take responsibility for how you were as a parent, but you cannot take responsibility for the choices he is making for his life.”

“But I keep feeling that if I had been a better parent, he would not be struggling the way he is.”

“Maybe and maybe not. You have no way of knowing this. Your self-judgment is your attempt to have control over something you have no control over – Luc’s choices. You are trying to avoid your feelings of helplessness regarding Luc. But you are helpless over him. You cannot make him be different.

“Each child is different and each child will respond differently to our parenting. We do the best we can for our children. Most parents want the very best for their children and feel deep pain when their children go through pain. Yet we cannot prevent them from their own soul’s journey.”

“So what can I do to help him?”

“The very best thing you can do is to continue doing your own inner work, while praying for him. Even though he is 29, you are still a role model for him. Certainly judging yourself is not good role modeling. Luc needs to see you doing all you can to take loving care of yourself. When he sees you feeling really good about yourself and happy with your life, he might decide to make some changes. Aside from becoming a loving role model and praying for him, there is really nothing you can do about his choices. You need to accept your helplessness over him instead of trying to have control over him. Any attempts to control him will likely result in resistance.”

“Yes, he seems to be very resistant to anything I say. This is part of my frustration and sadness.”

“Right. That’s why you need to let go of trying to control him. You need to let go of being invested in the outcome regarding his choices and just keep on your own journey. The more you let go of him, the better chance you have of him making loving choices for himself, especially when he sees you making loving choices for yourself.”

Most parents want to think that they have more control over their children than they do. We want to think that if we “do it right” we can control the outcome we want for our children. It will make it much easier to let go of trying to control our children and just be the very best parents we can, when we understand and accept that they are on their own soul’s journey.