For all adult children there is a transition time from how they grew up in a Christian home, to making their own way as an adult. Transitioning into an adult means they come to the place of their own individuality in spiritual direction. This can be a difficult season for parents. Of course, everything we have taught them as parents is a solid foundation; which is comforting. We can feel confident that just as the bible teaches in Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” our training will always stay with them as a guide.
This process reminds me of the Galatians 3:24, 25 which talks about the law being our tutor until we are of full age (then we come under the Spirit). In a sense the Christian upbringing is a lot like this. When full age comes, adult children jump out of their foundational spiritual nest–even if they live at home. They start exercising their own wings of faith and find their own strength, individual direction, and preferences. They may stumble a bit a first, and some of their techniques may differ, but the Spirit will be faithful to guide them where He wants them to go in their walks.
Now it’s time for our instructions. Getting a good grasp on the do’s and don’ts of responding to our adult children’s independence can save us a lot of heartache. During our children’s growing up years we have had complete liberty to express our thoughts and concerns, but this all changes once they begin to transition into grown-ups and make choices different than ours. As they go through the process “not reacting” initially when we don’t agree is catalyst to their development. One, it makes them feel like they can come to us if they have questions about life and not get blasted, and two, it gives them the freedom to make mistakes and get their own bearings. How we present our case if we disagree at this phase of life becomes paramount. Being respectful of their individuality, and the steps of processing that that requires is key. For instance when it looks like they might be making a mistake we need to remember “not” to initially react in controlling or be over-spiritual manner to try and advert the mistake. Instead, we need to listen without initially responding, take it to God in prayer, and then calmly come back with the red flags that we might see (pointing out danger never goes away as a parent).
But here is the tricky part–we must purpose in our hearts ahead of time not to argue about the red flags. For some of this it will feel like the holding back a dam that’s about to burst. We must simply leave the red flags in their court–letting them handle the red flags as they will. Maybe this thought will help…the more we jump up and down to keep them from going a direction we don’t want them to go, the further that direction they might go–simply because of human nature. If this thought doesn’t help keep our feet planted I don’t know what will. At this point they may still head their own way (remember it is a process)–but the red flags will eventually be seen as the Spirit reveals, and leads. This makes it their own, and not because they feel guilt-ed or oppressed. But because they are making their own discovery about important life choices. Showing our adult children that we value their abilities inspires great confidence–it is a gift. We become more of an adviser, less of a parent (although they will always love, honer, and cherish us as parents). This creates in them a tremendous respect and desire to come to us with issues, and a willingness to listen.
by Paula Masters