Throwing Life Preservers to The Drowning

Parenting is never easy. My daughter was in Jr. High when I began noticing the red flags of an eating disorder. I had seen others go down this road and knew all too well the dangers and struggles involved. We’ve all had those mommy moments where you have the thought, ‘where is the instruction manual on how to parent?’ When situations arise, that I have no clue how to handle, I oft times say out load, “Who said I could be the mother? I don’t know how to fix this or save my child…”

After the initial panic and fears, I knelt in prayer and asked for guidance and the words to say. I then went down to her bedroom, and from deep in my heart, we talked. I’m not sure all that was said that day, but we both remember it as the day rescuing began. I promised her that our family would not let her drown, and that I was going to start throwing out life preservers…and that’s what we did.

The pains and heartbreak of parenting can be debilitating if we let it swallow us. I was at a 12-step support group when I stated that I was there to learn what to do to save my child, and was told, “Your child already has a Savior, you be their mother.” So, what do you do when your child is drowning with anxiety, an eating disorder, depression, pornography, self-harm, addictions, or rebellion? I promise all of us will face something like this at one time or another, and all parents will feel guilt! With help from the spirit, we found resources, people, programs, books and answers to what became a long journey into recovery. Now looking back we can see the growth and strength we all gained, the greatest being witnesses to the hand of God.

So, what would I tell a person grasped in the panic and fear of how to help a loved one that is drowning? Start throwing life preservers!

(I have a list of ideas that can be “Life Preserves” at the end of this post)

Running the Rapids

6 people running the river in rapids

This is a trip where my children- now adults- all got in the raft and floated the snake river, while Erik and I watched the grandchildren. There are preparations and precautions you take before rafting a river. First the life jacket must be securely on, and the raft properly rigged. Then we learn clear instructions on what to do if tossed from the raft. Running rapids is exciting and a wild ride, but the river can also be unpredictable, cold and dangerous.

In rescuing, there are also precautions and preparations taken, just as running the river.


Time and time again this answer came after seeking answers in prayer, “We have the people, the power and the program”


Gather a support team of trusted family, friends and the Lord. This is vital, because you can’t always be the one doing the lifting, sometimes you need to be lifted. Trying to do this yourself is like a lone soldier running into the battle alone; not valiant just stupid. Also on our team were church leaders and friends who had gone through an eating disorder and recovered successfully.

“Our Father in heaven knows His children’s needs better than anyone else. It is His work and glory to help us at every turn, giving marvelous temporal and spiritual resources to help us on our path to return to Him” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf


This, for us, was spiritual support. I believe God is all knowing, all powerful and has pure love for each of us- what more can I say. We called upon the power of priesthood blessings in the big rapids. Also the energy from exercise, sleep, good nutrition and getting out in nature will sustain you. A walk in nature together was our medicine and is now one of our fondest memories.


Seek out a councilor that is a good mix with your child. We really studied this out together and were divinely guided. There are also so many good support groups out there. Getting involved in acts of service is also healing because you get out of your head and self pity and help others. You may also find that service releases endorphins.

man falling from airplane


What about the one who isn’t drowning but has deliberately jumped from the raft and is rebelling against the “Life Preserves” we are throwing and is determined to face the rapids their own way? This is what I’ve discovered as a mom:


Speak words that are positive and uplifting. Let them know you believe in their dreams- even if it’s not what you want for them. I had to learn this the hard way with my son’s goal to be a Navy Seal. Be their greatest fan!

Accept Them as They Are:

I believe we all need love and acceptance, just like we need air and water. I had an experience where actually telling a child, “I love and accept you as you are!” opened the door for healing and forgiveness to take place.


We all have weaknesses and fears of failing. Our children need us to be there for them. I wasn’t even aware that my child felt misunderstood and like a disappointment. Think about how good you feel when someone takes the time to understand and listen to what you’re going through. Put down your phones and turn off the noise and sincerely listen to them without judgement. I promise it can soften hearts.

Show Love Unfeigned:

Try to see them through God’s eyes as the child of great worth that they are. This can be hard when a child is acting unlovable and hurtful. In my experience, this is when they need the most love, and I must swallow my pride and anger. Kindness is powerful! Every time I talked to my child as a lecture, or with criticizing words, feelings were hurt and walls went up. But when I sincerely loved by serving, and showed kindness, those walls came down. I also believe in hugging and apologizing. It’s good for our children to know we are not perfect and make mistakes too.

(Unfeigned: genuine; sincere)


I also have found it helpful to be honest with my children, let them know sometimes (most of the time) parents make mistakes, and that I’m doing the best I can. No one is perfect. Of course I want them to try to be their best, but I don’t expect perfection from either one of us …cause that’s crazy thinking! So, I ask for the same love and acceptance from them. Most of the time my actions are out of love and concern for their welfare and safety on the river of life.

After all is said, I really do try to be joyful! Who wants to be around a sour pickle sucker all the time? I had to apply the same rules to loving myself, and letting go of guilt. I have a new favorite saying, “I can’t change what I wore yesterday any easier then I can change the past.” Repentance is simply making a course change, and then looking downstream! Enjoy the ride!




lady holding up rock

“When my children remember their childhood, I want only for them to remember that their mother gave it her all. She worried too much, she failed at times and she did not always get it right… but she tried her hardest to teach them about kindness, love, compassion and honesty. Even if she had to learn it from her own mistakes she loved them enough to keep going, even when things seemed hopeless, even when life knocked her down. I want them to remember me as the woman who always got back up.”

Some Life Preservers we found helpful:

LDS Addiction recovery program

Life Changing Services– “Eternal Warriors” course or “Mothers Who Know” support group

66 Positive Things You Should Be Saying to Your Child;

Larry Barkdull “Rescuing Wayward Children

The Center for Change: Outpatient Therapy

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