Have you ever heard the question, “Will my job as a parent ever end?” I have, and many times from parents who wryly make the comment after their child has moved back home post-college– or for a number of reasons, they see their adult child’s life ‘imploding’ and they wonder what it is they can and should do.
This topic is near and dear to my heart as I am the parent of four grown children, and I want to make sure I am fulfilling my parental role at this stage in their lives. I have reflected upon many scriptures as well as God’s character to gain insight into what the role of parents is for their adult children.
Parenting doesn’t ever end; it is a ‘life sentence’. Regardless of the age of your children, your primary job is to represent to your children the heart and character of God and to reveal His truth and love to them. That includes helping your children of all ages to learn ‘to die’ to their selfish desires and to learn the joy of living for the glory of God, which truly is the key to joyous living! Although we always have parental responsibilities, how you carry them out changes when your children become adults who have moved out of your home. We in the West have been led to believe that the responsibility of parenting ends when a child turns 18, and although there are legal and financial responsibilities that may change at that age, parents have been entrusted with God-given responsibilities– no matter the age of their child.
As hard as it may be for moms of babies and toddlers to comprehend, it can be even more difficult to be a parent of adult children because you have far less ability to influence their choices than you did when they lived under your roof. In addition, you can be haunted by the fruit of the poor parenting choices you made when your children were young, which can lead to great suffering for your adult children– as well as for you. In general, your role as a parent of adult children is to be an advisor, counselor or coach to them rather than to be an instructor and disciplinarian as was the case in their youth. The degree to which you instructed, disciplined, and set the stage for open, honest, constructive communication when they were growing up will definitely impact how open they are to listening to your counsel when they are adults.
If you instructed your child in God’s Word, in the spirit of His love when he or she was young, then parenting will be less challenging as your child grows older, even into adulthood. In fact, if you assumed the correct role of a parent when they were growing up, then when they are adults you likely will have the joy of a ‘friendship’ with them, and you also will have gained a ‘brother or sister in Christ’.
If, however, you did not teach your children in God’s word and His ways—likely because at the time you were ignorant of God and His wisdom—or if your children chose to rebel against the truth of His word that you taught them, then your children most likely are pursuing the ‘desires of their flesh’ and not ‘walking in the Spirit’ so they—and you—are now ‘reaping what was sown’ (Galatians 6:7-8). If this is the case with you, I want to encourage you: do not despair! God’s grace is sufficient for every need, and He is able to forgive every sin, and to make ‘beauty from ashes’—even from the parenting mistakes you made, and the sin your child has chosen! (1 John 1:9; Isaiah 61:3) You can be assured that your children will face trials in their lives that are bigger than their ability to handle them, and those situations are often the very door through which God enters and reveals to them that He is Sovereign and All Loving!
It is NOT your job: to try and control and micro-manage your child’s behavior; to manipulate or ‘bribe’ them so they will comply with your will and desires; to assume responsibility for poor choices they made that were contrary to your instruction and advice; to ‘rescue’ them from facing the consequences of their poor or even sinful choices when doing so will not teach them anything positive and instead will enable them to continue in selfish, self-destructive, or sinful behavior. Your job is to represent the love of God, His character and His ways to your children, which you do by praying for them, trusting their lives into His loving and capable hands, speaking the truth in love to them, and applying His life-changing Word to all of your dealings with them and all of the situations in your life. It is a job we can only do by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. May you–and I–be found faithful to assume the parental role God has entrusted to us, regardless of our children’s ages!
Written by Julie Van Gorp
Look for next week’s blog that will focus specifically on what you must do if you truly love your adult children.
You may also be interested in reading ‘A Two Letter Word That Spells Love’ that may help you with parenting–and all of your relationships.