Last week, I challenged those of you with children of any age to consider which areas of life you’re keeping a leash on your children… figuratively, of course! The things that start out as appropriate boundaries and cautions when our children are age 2 or 10, we often have a hard time removing at the appropriate time. So, as Chris and I transition to having two adult children, I thought I’d pass along my top observations. Hopefully, you can apply something we learned from our successes or failures to make your journey a little easier.
- Be grateful for the failures and skinned knees your children have while living under your roof.
We’re often so fearful that our kids are going to doing something wrong that we forget that every failure is an opportunity to learn. If we constantly come to their rescue or create such a threat that our children never fail (or let us know of their failure), we miss an opportunity to teach them that the consequences are usually a little less painful now than after they leave our home.
- There’s a difference between controlling external behavior and reaching their heart.
In the early years, I put such an emphasis on behavior that I became perilously close to having a child make everything look right to the eye, but internally turn himself away from me. Over Easter, Mark told me with a smile that I “had made as much improvement as he had since middle school.” It means I’m reaching his heart and he now invites me in rather than shuts me out. There may be nothing more important at this stage of life.
- Questions based on wanting the best for them can be perceived as distrusting.
I learned this the hard way last week. I had one angry college student when I asked my 10th question about registration for next semester. The solution is not to stop asking questions. I have the right to ask questions that have a huge impact on the investment we’re making. But it reminded me that as our sons and daughters spread their wings, it’s important to validate their handling of their own independence, to establish expectations, and to normalize the fact that this is a new season for everyone… and I’ll pick my questions carefully. ????
- Dependency breeds resentment.
This is a phrase we’ve used around our house for a decade and it’s still true. There are times when I’ll get a text with a request to help out one of our kids with something that they really could do themselves. When you see them only a few days out of the year, you’ll take any connection you can get and, of course, you want to be needed. But be careful. Make clear distinctions regarding what they’re responsible for and the role you’re willing to play.
- He who began a good work in my children will bring it to completion.
The reality is that when your children leave home, the dynamics drastically change. It isn’t bad; just different. There are hundreds of decisions they make each week that you have no knowledge of, including their faith journey. I’m blessed that the moms of my son’s two roommates and I have a standing appointment to pray for our three boys each week. There has never been a season where I’ve truly had to trust that my greatest work is praying over my son and daughter.