Human beings are wired for connection. From the Creator’s own commentary of his crowning handiwork in Genesis, “It is not good for man to be alone,” to Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, “Christ makes us one body and individuals who are connected to each other,” we are clearly designed to thrive in community. While some mavericks among us may chafe at the phrase, “It takes a village,” seldom is our need for supportive relationships more crucial than in the raising, and releasing, of our children.
Recent studies show that it takes meaningful relationships with 6-8 adults for a young believer to transition successfully through high school and college with an intact faith. How and where do parents find these influential people to mentor and model a believing lifestyle for their child?
It would not be wise to suppose that you and your spouse are all that your children need as they mature into adulthood. Ask that the Lord of the Harvest bring laborers to partner with you in cultivating the soil of your student’s heart with the ultimate goal of harvesting a fruitful life.
Take a good look at people closest to you first. Look for those who are already organically involved with/invested in your child--family members; aunts, uncles, older cousins. Then broaden your scope to include those in their wider circle; teachers, coaches, and members of your church and community. Don’t overlook people you think might be too old or too busy. Take note of men and women of character and integrity who could nurture these same qualities in your student. Consider adults who might share a hobby with your child as a natural entry point or someone whose career your student is interested in pursuing.
Everyone understands the energy it takes to parent young children, but we tend to underestimate the mental energy it takes to manage teenagers. Leave margins in your own schedule so you can be available when your son or daughter wants to talk.
I am not a “night owl” but my five teenagers were notorious for wanting to talk as I was on my way to bed. I needed to mentally make room for these untimely interactions. Also, be ready to take full advantage of random errands and car time for meaningful discussions that seem to drop out of nowhere. Such are often divine appointments--don’t miss them. This is not a stage of life to overcommit to outside pursuits and suppose that your teen is able to run on auto-pilot, or that your job is pretty much over.
Your son or daughter still desperately needs your attention, involvement, and presence regardless of what they may project to the contrary. This is a time to sharpen your listening skills and learn to ask good questions, to share your own story, including your honest struggles regarding the Christian faith. Hillcrest uses Cultivate as a resource for ideas in conversation starters. Check out their website: http://thecultivateproject.com
We were going through an intense time with our oldest child, a high school sophomore, a number of years ago. I was meeting with a pastoral friend of ours who sat, patiently listening, while I expounded my woes with much weeping and gnashing of teeth. When I had exhausted myself in despair, he leaned forward and looked straight into my weary eyes and smiled, “I cannot wait to see what God will do...in Dawn.” I was stunned. Do in Dawn?! Had he not been listening? I was not the problem or the work in progress here...or was I?
There is nothing like having a questioning mind in the house to make you examine your own heart and goals in life. What are some areas in which God may be calling you to personal growth? How much does your student see you valuing the input of others in this process?
Humility acknowledges the need for outside perspective, yet it is hard to model something you don’t fully embrace. Acknowledge your own need of instruction and the wisdom of others. Let your children see your respect for those who have impacted your life and share those valuable contributions. Who have been people of influence in your walk with the Lord? What character qualities did they have in common?
This past weekend I was able to spend time with my grown, daughter who lives with her husband three hours away. We were goofing around and took a selfie for me to post on Facebook. I asked her, “Do you know why I look so great in this picture?” She laughed at my unabashed assessment of my appearance. I answered my own question. “Because I am so happy. I’m with you and that makes me happy.” Our children need to hear messages like this. It is important for each of us to know that we belong to something bigger--that we are individually essential to the benefit of the whole.
Demonstrate through your words and example the importance of being connected with other Christians. Encourage your pending graduate to seek and pursue relationships that challenge them to be the person God has called them to be. As they make plans to leave home, join them in visiting prospective churches near their new neighborhoods and discuss what sort of fellowship they’d like to connect with and serve.
As a parent of adult children, nothing brings me more joy than seeing my offspring involved in ministry; mentoring teens, leading small groups of young couples, teaching Sunday school, and volunteering in the church nursery. Together with our forebears, our children, and later our children’s children, we are living stones and we are called to apprentice the next generation for their place in this holy habitation known as The Church--God’s grand design from the beginning of time.