If your child, regardless of age, has chosen to leave the Church of Latter-day Saints, you may feel burdened by his or her decision. You may also feel that the decision is a failure on your part. Could you have done more to keep him or her a part of the community, or should you have pushed less to prevent his or her leaving? It’s normal to feel concern and sadness over your child’s decision, but keep in mind that, although painful for many to hear, you have no control over the beliefs of others (yes, even children), and that's okay.
Recognize That Your Child Is In Control
It is not uncommon for parents to be overcome by feelings of guilt and failure when their children decide to leave the church. These feelings often prompt parents to think about how they could have parented differently — thoughts, one resource says, that are not productive.
When you find yourself wondering, “what if,” remember — your child does not really belong to you. Your child is a human individual, and only they have control over their spirituality or beliefs. You may love your child more than anything, but you should not feel guilty about the spiritual wandering of a child. Rather, rejoice in their decisions and trust that they will find the path that is best for them.
Be Respectful in Your Communication
Obsessing over your child’s decision to leave the church will not help them return, but also it may cause you to communicate in such a way that will elicit a negative response from them. If you hope for your child to return to the Mormon community, be respectful in your communications. Let your child know that you respect the decision. Moreover, listen to the reasoning and attempt to empathize with it. In short, set an example that you hope your children will follow. Though your child may not decide to follow your faith, you will set a strong example of how to be understanding when faced with diversity.
Don't Pressure or Guilt Your Child
Your child was raised in the church, and as a result, they may have friends, peers, or mentors who are members of the LDS. Continuing to invite your children to church activities and community gatherings may seem like harmless community-building, but can come off as not respecting your child's decision. If your child feels pressured or guilted by a parent to attend services or church events even after their departure, you may end up pushing them even further away. Don't insist, but make sure they're always welcome; they may just surprise you by deciding on their own to attend.
Hold Out Hope
As with any trial you will face in life, hope is necessary to see you through this tough time. For believers, one of the greatest acts of faith you can perform for another is to offer prayers on their behalf. While it can be hard to accept that your child is free to choose what they believe, you don't have to give up hope. If it helps, pray not that your child returns to the church, but that they find peace and fulfillment through whatever path they take, be it LDS, atheist, Jewish, or any other. If you begin to lose faith in prayer, just remember what the Bible says: The objective of prayer is not to change the will of God but rather to secure the blessings that He wishes to grant.
For believers, it’s important to remember that every child is a child of God, and that He has a plan for each. Even if His plan for your child no longer involves the church, they are still your child and you can love them just the same as always.