When children turn eighteen, they become legal adults, and parents enter what we call the launching phase. The launching phase is then parents send their young ones into the world to be independent and self-reliant adults. During this stage, its important for parents to let go and trust God that their child is properly equipped to make good decisions based on the morals and values he/she learned growing up.
Jesus says, for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (Matthew 19:5). He doesn’t say, Grown-up kids should stay with their parents and depend on them for their material and emotional needs.
Of course, when parents launch their children into adulthood, they aren’t ending the relationship; they are beginning a new phase. The adult-child will most likely still come to the parent for wisdom and advice as they embark on their life journey. Although for many parents this is a joyous time, a time when marital and life satisfaction skyrockets, parents who overprotect their children tend to find it frightening. They often hold on tightly to their children, fearing their kids will make poor choices or that they will be left behind as their kids enter adulthood. But clinging to adult-children will only foster resentment and rebellion.
Author and child-care expert Grace Ketterman says, releasing young people into today’s world is a panicky process. This process can be made more reassuring when parents remember that they are transferring them from the shelter of their parental wings to the perfect care of the heavenly Father.10
It is our task as parents to build up our children in the ways of the Lord. That includes infusing our kids with independence and a Christ like mind-set, giving them the ability to eventually have dominion over their own lives. It is a frightening and often heart-wrenching process, but it is the final call of good parenting.
Let go and Let God: Now that your child is an adult, you need to give him the same respect you would any other adult. You can still be involved in his life, but you’re no longer his disciplinarian and guardian; you’re more like his mentora trusted counselor or guide.
A Case Study: Ken and Mike: Below is an excerpt from loving your Child Too Much a book by Tim Clinton (me) and Gary Sibcy (Integrity Publishing, 2006). Gary and I talk a bit about adult-children in the book, and I think the following case study captures the essence of the topic well.
Ken, a single father, came to us looking for help with his rebellious nineteen-year-old son, Mike. Ken had heard that his son was getting drunk at local bars. Not only that, Ken told us, but Mike also moved in with his friends’ place with no rules, where his girlfriend can spend the night!
It’s probably very difficult to watch your son make those choices, we acknowledged. But Mikes an adult now, Ken. He has his own free will. It may be some time before he learns to use that freedom responsibly. Don’t give up, we hastened. The best approach is for you to remain faithful to Jesus. Instead of worrying, try to lift up your child to the Lord in prayer. This is where your faith becomes reality, as you trust God to work in Mike’s heart and life. While you do this, be available to Mike when he returns to you for guidance. Most likely, he will turn to you for help, though it may not be until his world begins to crumble.
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