Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
- Proverbs 22:6 NJKV
Do you remember when your kids were little and people would say, “Oh, enjoy these years now. They will be grown before you know it!”? I remember when my daughter was still in diapers and a lady at church told me that. I could not imagine this baby of mine being 18 or 19 years old. Well, guess what? The lady was right, and the years flew by.
The time to launch our children with love into the unknown world of adulthood is something that can sneak up on parents, especially us “helicopter moms” who tend to hover a little too much. It’s not that we aren’t enjoying the years of wiping noses, giving breathing treatments through the night, crowded beds, and overseeing tons of homework; we’re just so busy that sometimes we forget to savor the moments, even the not so fun ones, of being a mom.
For those parents preparing for high school graduations, you may find yourselves having mixed emotions. Maybe you’re ready to have your own graduation party, feeling like you should be walking across the stage with them. Maybe you’re already in panic mode thinking, ‘What in the world is this kid going to do now because he’s decided not to go to college?’
Many parents struggle with their children’s transition to young adulthood. Sometimes — and I’m speaking from parental experience — it’s hard to let go. We want to help them. We want to give them what we didn’t have when we were their age.
But, in all of our wants, are we hindering them from growing up and being responsible?
I remember my counselor explaining it like this: “You are retired from parenting now. You have taught them everything they need to know to be successful. Celebrate a job well done and then move on from parent to being a cheerleader on the sidelines.” I responded first with, “But what if I don’t want to retire?” Some parents have their entire identity wrapped up in being Johnny’s mom or dad. It’s hard when our kids don’t really need us anymore, especially not in the same way they used to.
It is imperative, as our young people transition from high school to college, or into the workforce, that we communicate affirming messages such as, “I believe in you,” or “I know you can do this,” and then let them make their own decisions. I know this is easier said than done. I remember after my son left for college, I was going through some old papers and pictures (having myself a good cry). I stumbled across one of my old prayer journals from when my children were little. As I was reading through it, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me, ‘You were praying then for what’s happening in their lives now. I haven’t forgotten your prayers. Trust Me to work in them and their journey just as I have in yours.’ How can I not trust our loving God to help them now when He helped me back then? My counselor was right. I had prepared them in the best ways I knew how for living independently and had instilled in them the teachings of the Lord.
You may be saying to yourself, just as I have said, ‘I have made mistakes with my kids and how I have parented them at times.’ Trust me when I say I have had to go to my kids, and now young adults, even recently as I am “launching with love” and ask for forgiveness. Please know that God is in the restoring and redeeming work business. He can take those moments and experiences and use them to grow us and our relationship with our young people. It is not easy to go from “helicopter parent” to having an adult to adult relationship with your kids. It’s a learning process.
Give yourself some grace. Ask God to use those times to deepen your walk with Him and with your now young adult.
Here are some quick tips for navigating this transitional time:
Give yourself permission to feel
There are so many mixed emotions that come with launching kids (happy, sad, scared, worried, excited, anxious). Give yourself permission to feel. Remember, they are probably experiencing some of the same emotions.
Celebrate your new parental role
You are now the cheerleader! Speak affirming and encouraging words into your children as often as possible. When I was in college, I would call home and tell my mom about a hard exam or assignment coming up and how I didn’t know if I could make it through. Her famous line was, “You study, I’ll pray.” My mom was such a wonderful encourager. I always felt like she believed in me even when I didn’t.
Entrust your child to the Creator
Entrust your child into the hands of the One who loves them even more than you do. Pray, pray, and pray some more. Pray Scripture over them. Psalm 1 is a good one. Insert your child’s name and pray…
Blessed is ____________ who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners; but ____________’s delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law ____________ meditates day and night. Lord, help ____________ to be like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that ________ does, may ____________ prosper.
Revisit an old hobby or interest.
You know, something you never had time for while you were running from soccer to piano lessons, and from PTO meetings to fast food lines. It’s time for you to hit the refresh button. During this transition time, ask the Holy Spirit to show you ways you can be used for His glory in your new season. Then, go and enjoy!
Gena Lindsey currently works as an individual and family therapist for a local school district. She is married to Morgan and has a daughter, a son, and two step-daughters. Gena enjoys spending time with family, baking, crafting, and reading.