Parenting Adult Children

Parenting Adult Children
Karen O’Connor

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5, NIV)

One Sunday I broke down in tears at a prayer meeting at church and asked what I could do to restore my adult son to me. He had made some chilling decisions and I was powerless to change him. A dear, older woman hurried across the room, sat down beside me and slipped her arm around my shoulder. “Your parenting in the flesh is over,” she said softly. “It’s time to parent him in the Spirit. Pray for your son and trust God to do what you cannot do � and He will,” she added confidently.

I was set free that day. Gradually I began to see that God, who reconciled His relationship to His children through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, would surely give me and all mothers and fathers who asked for it the grace to reconcile our changing relationship with our adult children. I have found that such grace has helped me and others to incorporate three helpful steps into our parenting process. And they work! Today, 20 years after that life-changing day, my son is a fine, responsible adult, who has become one of my dearest friends.

Recognize and Respect Your Differences

During a discussion about parenting, Chet shared his experience: “Finally, I’m beginning to see my children in a new way,” he said. “Both are married and have kids of their own. I’m amazed at what good, capable people they are. I realize in talking with others that I have not been as encouraging as I could be. I wonder if that’s why my daughter seems distant. I feel anxious around her, like neither of us is telling the truth. I want to change that. I need to apologize and tell her how truly proud of her I am. I’ve been measuring her by my standard instead of seeing her for the beautiful person God created.”

Share Your Wisdom and Insight (Without Being Critical)

Regardless of the past, I believe our children, whatever their age, want to know who we really are. I had occasion to discover this for myself about 15 years ago when my youngest daughter was still in high school. At the time, she was living with her father following our divorce. Unexpectedly, she accepted my invitation to live with me during her two years of junior college. During that time, our relationship took an important turn. We were once again together under the same roof. I had experienced a lot of emotional and spiritual healing by then, so I knew that, finally, I had something to give her my true self.

There were sweet and loving times, and times of tears and long talks as we walked along the ocean hand-in-hand, cooked and baked together and shopped! It was also a time of deep inner healing for both of us as we drew closer to the Lord and prayed with each other. By the time she left for her last two years of college in Northern California, I felt our relationship had been restored, and that regardless of what surfaced in the future, we’d be able to face it and deal with it. That has proven true.

Relinquish Your Adult Children to the Lord

If we do the vital inner work necessary to spiritual and emotional parenting, then relinquishing our children will be easier than we might expect. We will no longer feel compelled to use them as a means of working through the unfinished business of our past or as the focus of our future desires.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. Consider your own situation. Is the Lord telling you that now is the time for you to take steps to restore your relationship with your children? If so, incline your ears to the words of His mouth (Psalm 78:1). Admit your imperfections and commit them to a perfect God � who will guide, guard and govern your sons and daughters in ways you could never carry out on your own. Then put into action the truths the Lord reveals.

Only with God is it possible to find hope for restoration. It is never too late . . . even now that they’re grown. Jesus promised in Mark 10:27, “With God all things are possible.” We can count on it!

When Adult Children Reject the Faith

What do you do when you realize your adult child has not made a commitment to God? by Clem Boyd

Your son or daughter is now an adult, living comfortably in a decent home with a strong, healthy marriage and a couple of great kids. You should feel a sense of accomplishment, but there’s something missing from your child’s life � a commitment to God.

“You want the best for your adult children, but you also know you can’t tell them how to live,” explains Dr. Alan Nelson, psychiatrist and family therapist. “You cannot make that decision for them.”

Psychiatrist Lee Bishop says rejection of faith sometimes stems from childhood trauma, such as physical abuse by a significant “Christian.” However, many influences affect the spiritual direction of a child, including friends and society.
Childhood Faith

“The faith of childhood, although genuine, is a simpler faith,” he explains. “If they don’t have the resources externally and internally, as they mature they will find [their childhood faith] is inadequate for the storms of life [and reject it].”

Nelson cautions over-50 parents not to push the faith issue. “The child needs to know when he sees you that he won’t get a lecture or concerned look,” he says. “Try to maintain an honest relationship in other areas without pushing that one. And, still pray for intervention.”
Also, it’s not a good idea to assist God by asking a sibling to get involved. “The parent can tell other siblings about the situation and ask for prayer,” Nelson says. “But adult children don’t want to be manipulated. [Asking siblings to get involved] may build the wall higher.”

Steps to Take

There are a few steps you can take that still respect the faith boundary, Bishop notes. “A parent can talk about their own struggles with the faith,” he offers. “It allows them to be in more of an adult-to-adult relationship.”

Share a book that’s helped you, Bishop adds, but offer it in a discreet manner, not at a family function where attention may be focused on the son or daughter. And give it without pressuring the child to read it today. Say something like, “This book helped me and when you get a chance, I thought you might like it too.” Writing a letter is also a good way to share your feelings in a manner that’s safe.

Inviting the adult child to a Sunday service, Bible class or special church event is a possibility, too, Bishop says. “There are fathers who’ve used a Promise Keepers event as a way to develop dialogue with an adult son,” he explains.

Don’t spend a lot of time beating yourself up over parenting mistakes you’ve made. Acknowledge those errors to yourself, to God and to your children. Also, don’t let yourself become embittered against God because you feel He has failed.

“The heavenly father hates to see any of his children leave their relationship with Him,” Nelson says. “He’ll use the Holy Spirit, an angel, a sermon, a life accident, a song, some other human being, but in the final result, you’ll be able to look back and say God left no stone unturned to reach that person.”

The above article, “Parenting Adult Children” was written by Karen O’Connor. The article was excerpted www.focusonthefamily.com web site. May 2011

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

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