Do you remember the day you left home?
Whether it was heading to university, moving out to your first apartment or getting married, there was a moment where we all struck out on our own, and our relationship with our parents shifted to a new season.
Some of us this year are now facing that same scenario, from the other side. We are the parents, watching our children head off to their own adventure. As Christian parents, how can we negotiate this inevitable shift in our relationship with our children as they head out of our homes? How can we continue to help their relationship with God when they don’t live with us anymore?
Prepare them well
As our children get ready to launch into a new environment, we can feel overwhelmed with wanting to make sure they are equipped to handle all the challenges that are to come. We want to make sure they can cook for themselves, and know how to wash their clothes. We can also begin to prepare them for the spiritual challenges they are going to face.
According to one study, around 66% of young adults who attended church regularly as a teenager drop out of church for at least one year between the ages of 18–22. Having worked with many teenagers and young people over my years in ministry, I found it significant that much of that drop-off isn’t due to deliberate choice, but more a lack of knowing where to go, how to get there, and being bold enough to connect in.
As parents we can help our children find their choices for a spiritual home, and help them problem-solve the little things to remove as many hindrances as possible between them and finding a local church that is right for them.
One of the first hurdles is helping your child find a church. You may want to poke around on the internet and see what churches are out there. Encourage your child to connect in with a ministry online called Fusion that helps students link up with local churches, and helps local churches know them and invite them to become a part.
One major hurdle some students struggle with is figuring out how to travel to the church they have chosen. I knew one dad who promised his daughter that he would pay for all the travel she needed to get to church, so that money wouldn’t stop her going or feeling safe.
Parenting young adults is all about enabling them to make great choices for themselves, and we can help by removing hindrances from them as they decide where they want to plug in and find community.
Pray for their specifics
As our children move out, we will learn to live with less and less information. But that doesn’t mean we stop praying. Let your children know that you are praying for them and that you want to have their back and pray for whatever they want you to pray about.
It could be for specific exams, a friend who is struggling, or for their last-minute all-nighter as they work on an essay which is due. When they know you will be faithful to pray, without adding in your opinion, they will keep coming back, knowing that you want to support them and are covering them in prayer.
Keep parenting for faith
Just because they don’t live with you doesn’t mean that you stop parenting! You are still incredibly influential in your child’s life. Young people are trying to figure out how they want to live and so tend to resist advice and opinions from us, but they are still watching and listening!
As you continue to connect with your children, keep creating windows into your life with God. As you talk, tell them about how you are experiencing stress at work, and how you ranted at God in the shower, and how you spent an hour in the car singing worship because it made you feel great. Focus on letting them see your authentic, imperfect life with God so they can have permission to have one too. Create opportunities for them to minister to you, pray for you, or lead at things you are leading in when they come back to visit you.
As we release our children into a new season, remember that God is going with them. He has great plans and purposes for their lives. He will be with them, he will guide them – he has promised to guide them into all truth. Trust that the Father who loves you, loves them more than you ever could, and he will give you all the wisdom you need to flourish as a parent in this next adventure of parenting young adults.
- Rachel Turner is the Parenting for Faith Pioneer with BRF. She has worked in a variety of churches as a Family Life Pastor, Children’s Pastor, and Youth Pastor since 2004. Find out more at www.parentingforfaith.org.uk