I had a “moment” this week. It happened when I was helping out at a high-school graduation party for some of the teens in our church youth group. As I watched them joking around with each other, I had a feeling of wanting to keep that evening, to preserve it as it was. This moment can never be re-created because everything, including the kids themselves, will change.
The Race into the Future
From the moment of birth, our children are moving away from us. It’s the way God intended it to be. First in our arms, then in our laps, then crawling, walking, and finally running. They are separating from us to become independent.
Sometimes, this separation is not done in the usual, healthy, expected way. Sometimes it’s a kind of wandering off or a rejection of our values and expectations. Rebellion, addiction or traumatic events can cause a break in the connection too soon, or too violently.
Nevertheless, for good or ill, our influence over our children is no longer significant when they reach this stage, even if we are their only source of financial support.
Here Comes Reality
Whether our young adult is going off to college or leaving us in some other way, our response should be a careful one. Even though our hearts may be reluctant to do so, now is the time to adapt to the new normal.
The person you drop off at college in August is going to be different from the person who comes home for Thanksgiving. Living on your own for the first time is a steep learning curve–think of the education, the friends, the new habits, and the life-management skills that need to be acquired.
For you parents of prodigal kids, the changes will be more dramatic, but you too will have to adapt to this newer version of your young adult. You won’t discover these changes around the Thanksgiving dinner table, but more likely in a disturbing late-night phone call.
How Do I Adapt?
Childhood is Over
When they leave you, realize that they have begun to think of themselves as independent adults (even if they’re still using your credit card). It’s time for you to treat them like adults. This means no texting them to make sure they wake up for school. No intervening for them with college authorities about stuff like grades. NO calling them on Friday or Saturday nights.
Keep up communication, but don’t give them the third-degree or nag them. Ask open-ended questions in reponse to their comments. Don’t fuss over their eating habits or the amount of sleep they’re getting. They can figure this out. You raised them, didn’t you?
This goes for parents of prodigals, too. Keep them engaged in calm conversation when they call. They know what you think of their behavior, but do they know you still love them? Not with an ooey-gooey love, but a true love that tells them you will always be their family.
Expect Respect, and Show it to Them
Your kid may have developed a passion for something that is completely foreign to the way they were raised. Don’t get defensive or pushy. Listen to what they have to say and ask sincere questions.
Be sure to remind them that everyone, even a houseguest, has to comply with house rules. While they are at home, they will respect those rules. Pick up after yourself, check in periodically when you are out, no unapproved overnight guests, etc. You expect this because it is polite and respectful behavior, not because you’re treating them like a child.
Get a life.
We’re never ready for the extra quiet. If you have children still at home, you’ll still be busy with their activities and lives. If you and your spouse are now home alone, find something to do. Increase your volunteer hours, go back to school yourself, or take some fun weekend trips. Just take the main focus off raising your college-age kid.
This is true of parents of prodigals, too. We tend to obsess over their problems, and worry over their lives–of course! But we need to open our hearts to new channels for our love and nurture so that we keep our balance and don’t get sucked into the constant pain and drama of their situation.
Come to terms.
Accept the fact that your child is going to be a different adult from the one you expected when you sent them off to pre-school. This is in no way reflective of failure or success on your part. They are now being shaped by other influences and they are going to try on many different hats before they find the one that fits them. And the one that fits may be totally beyond your expectations.
If your young adult in college has really strayed from the path and becomes addicted, emotionally unstable, or dangerous to self or others, SEEK HELP! The pressures and stressors of their life may have caused some new problems to emerge. Get counseling for yourself as well.
Pray and Wait Patiently
I can not stress this enough. Pray these things for your child:
- For safety and protection from harm
- For wisdom and maturity
- For mental and physical health and strength
- For spiritual protection
- For continued faith in God
- For healthy influences
If your child is a prodigal, add these prayers:
- If you suspect them of criminal activity, pray that they are caught
- That they encounter godly people in their daily life
- That the way they are living grows ugly to them
- That they give up their rebellion and return to God
- That they know you love them unconditionally
Praying and waiting for change are hard, but they are the best influence you can have on the outcome. Some people say, “Trust the process.” I say, “Trust God in the process.”
God’s Final Word
I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.
Grace is real–
Judy, Default Mom