Recently a dear friend asked me how to navigate through parenting a post high school child. We’ve all considered the terrible two’s and tumultuous three’s as the toughest years but those years are a walk in the park compared to parenting a young adult. We usually think about parenting in terms of discipline, teaching, providing for needs, guiding and imparting wisdom. But once they become a young adult the terms change. And that’s where things get tricky. Unfortunately they don’t come with instruction manuals and most of us are just winging it.
But as I thought about her question and about what would be involved, I realized that the hardest thing about parenting a young adult is probably not what most people would think. The hardest part has nothing to do with parenting at all. Many of us fall into the trap of thinking we still must provide all the normal things that go along with being a parent as long as they are living under our roof or they are dependent on us while attending college. But the reality is that this is the time our children must find their own direction in life. They must be making their own decisions and plans. They will make mistakes but we have to let them. The hardest thing I’ve had to do during this stage of parenting is to let go.
God chooses us to be a supervisor for our children. As their supervisor we train them and teach them about life. We’re responsible for much of their plans, activities and schedule. Another trap we fall into is the trap of thinking that the plans that we have had for their lives will be the path they choose. We may provide direction and support for their God given talents and abilities, but that doesn’t mean they’ll choose the life that we’d hoped they would. I’m sure my parents never dreamed that I would join the US Navy and move to the other side of the country but that’s exactly what I chose to do. It’s not our job as parents to plan out our child’s life. And as a young adult, that’s the time they’re beginning to question what their future will look like, what career they’ll have, who they’ll marry, where they’ll live. We can provide advice when they ask, but what their future holds is ultimately up to them.
Our job as parents is to prepare our children for life. God chooses us to supervisor their childhood years but that is a temporary assignment. They are on loan to us until we return them to God so that He can lead them into the destiny for which He created them. And this is definitely the hardest part of being a parent.
Eventually our children reach the point where they are promoted to work directly with the Master Builder. They no longer need a supervisor to oversee them. During this season we as parents can fall into the trap of holding on to our children when it’s time to let them go. We can hinder their independence and growth by still trying to play too big a role in their life. We must ride out this season from the sidelines and let them discover the path God is leading them to. Interfering will simply delay the inevitable and can cause them to distance themselves from us even more so than they would naturally during this time.
They are now adults and we must see them as such. We have helped them to grow their wings and now is the time to let them fly. The temporary pain of letting go is manageable when we remind ourselves that we are entrusting them into the into the hands of the One who created them and loves them even more than we do. It’s time for us to enjoy watching our young adult find their way and discover their life’s direction. And we can find comfort in knowing that the next season of our relationship with our children will be as friends and there is no greater point to reach in the life of a parent.