We can’t sacrifice the future that God has for our kids because of our own fears and insecurities. There is a middle, a balance, and a transition. Here are some ways to help your teenager successfully transition into adulthood.
At the age of nineteen, a young adult myself, I was a mother who had no idea what she was doing. By the time I turned twenty-five, my husband and I already had four kids under the age of five. We had our hands full but tried to persevere. I quickly realized that I needed God’s help if I was ever going to help my kids grow up and successfully transition into adulthood.
I wasn’t raised in a nuclear family. My childhood was complicated. I didn’t have a strong point of reference to show me how to be the mother I knew I needed to be.
I knew both my mother and father. However, I didn’t have a close relationship with either of them. Born in the Philippines, I moved to Japan when I was ten years old to be raised by my grandmother. We lived with my aunt and uncle, who were in the military, before moving to the United States. I lived my whole life with the fear of abandonment, insecurity, and self-doubt. I wanted something better for my children and, with no earthly role models to look to, I looked up to my Father in Heaven.
God Will Complete the Good Work He Began
I grew up attending church every Sunday but never took it seriously. My family and I sat together; however, I looked forward more to going out to lunch together afterward than listening to the pastor. I only went to church because my family expected it of me. When I moved out of the house, the church was not a priority in my life. I put my Bible aside and lived my life according to the world’s view. By the grace of God, that didn’t last long. I married young and started a family almost immediately.
Kids have a funny way of bringing a person back to church. When my oldest was three years old, I started to be concerned about my children’s salvation. I began to see their future, and when I didn’t see God in it, it scared me. I looked up the church where I had once attended and went back for the first time with my kids. It was my greatest desire for them to know God personally.
I believe that God was pursuing my heart during this time, and I was now listening. I wanted to be a better wife and a mother for my family. Sometimes we don’t start well, but don’t lose hope. The Bible says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Parenting for Their Future
A former coach from high school gave me profound parenting advice when my oldest was only three months old. He told me to raise my child in ways that would cause others and myself to want to be around her when she reaches adulthood. I had never heard that before. It sounded so simple, yet so complicated. It was complicated because I didn’t know what that looked like or how to accomplish it.
This was around the time when self-esteem was being promoted, and accountability was beginning to feel uncommon. Of course, I wanted my children to develop healthy self-esteem, but it was just as vital that they learn accountability. I knew I had to find a healthy balance and that, more than likely, I’d make mistakes along the way. I prayed every day that the good things I did for my kids would outweigh my mistakes.
Motherhood is difficult, stressful, full of doubts, yet is very fulfilling. My kids were more compliant in their younger years, and so it was much easier to get them to do what I wanted them to do. I wanted them to embrace age-appropriate responsibilities. I wanted them to learn never to quit. When you quit or give up on something, it becomes easier to quit the next time. If this became a habit for them, they would never experience the satisfaction of completing something, especially when the task was difficult.
Every day, it was a conscious effort for me not to rescue them from every challenging moment they experienced. Some days that was a tough fight — and it still is. I challenged my kids, but in a healthy way. Raising a perfect child was never the goal, but expecting excellence from our kids is essential. These expectations are how they can begin to see their own potential.
“I’m 18, and You Can’t Tell Me What To Do!”
Fast forward to several years later. Now, three of our kids are young adults in high school, and our youngest is in middle school. My husband and I were busy with sports and school events. It was a fun stage but exhausting.
Our oldest child turned eighteen in the middle of her senior year, and our lives changed. Our quiet and compliant child started to have an opinion. She continued to attend church with us and joined the youth group. Naturally, we were pleased. However, she began exploring life and making decisions without telling us. There was no discussion about it; things just changed.
If you are not prepared for this change, it will catch you off guard. My husband and I didn’t look at this change in her as part of a transition that all kids go through when they become young adults. We still wanted to tell her what to do, where to go, when to go, and with who to go. I never stopped worrying about her, and wanted to protect her from worldly things.
My husband did a little better with letting her grow up than I did. However, looking back, I think my husband and I are a perfect example of two very different parenting styles. Some parents immediately give their children full access to adulthood as soon as they turn eighteen. Giving such freedom right away can be dangerous. Our children don’t automatically gain an overwhelming amount of wisdom just because the clock struck midnight and they are an adult by law now. Simultaneously, if we don’t allow our kids to enter into adulthood and enable them to transition into this wonderful chapter in their lives and celebrate it with them, it can be more harmful than helpful to them.
How To Survive the In-Between
Here are a few ways to help you survive your child’s transition into adulthood.
- Pray. Never underestimate the power of prayer. Ask God to give you wisdom when making parenting decisions. This is true from the very beginning, but it is more critical during this time of transition.
- Spend Time in God’s Word. Ensure that you have a pure heart and that you are not parenting out of fear, frustration, and emotions.
- Have a Conversation With Your Child. Find out what is going on in their world. More than likely, they have their fears they battle with. They just want to talk it out — let them, and be an active listener. If one answers before he hears, it is his folly and shame (Proverbs 18:13). We can’t help our kids if we don’t know their hearts. Be approachable.
- Watch Your Nonverbal Language. Our tone, facial expressions, and body language can speak louder than our words. It can either draw them near to us or push them away from us.
- Communicate Expectations Between You and Your Young Adult Child. Make sure these expectations are realistic for both of you. Remember to expect them to be responsible young adults and hold them accountable.
Finding a Balance
We can’t sacrifice the future that God has for our kids because of our own fears and insecurities. There is a middle, a balance, and a transition. It is best for everyone when we help our kids through the transition to adulthood rather than hold them back. Just because they turn eighteen doesn’t mean that they no longer need us as parents.
Our kids may even ask other adults for advice instead of us. We can’t panic when they do this. Instead, we must practice wisdom in this area, especially if we don’t know the people from whom they are seeking advice. Doing this was extremely difficult for me. When my daughter started seeking the advice of other adults, I felt displaced. My concern was that she wasn’t receiving godly counsel. Besides, who knows my child better than my husband and me? I decided to give it a chance and get to know the people who were becoming important in her life. Doing this helped ease the tension that I had, and I could tell it made my daughter feel better.
The Goal of the Transition to Adulthood
I wish that I could tell you it was always great after that. We struggled through it together, but the most important thing was that we didn’t allow the fights, misunderstandings, and differences of opinion to ruin our relationship. Being right was not the goal. The goal was to love my daughter, teach her, bring her up in the Lord, and let her fly. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Once our child has tasted the goodness and love of God, it becomes difficult to walk away from Him.
Remember the balance during the transition to adulthood. As parents, we must not swing from one side of the pendulum to the other. There are times when we must speak the truth to our young adult children that they don’t want to hear. In those moments, make sure that it’s done from a pure heart and out of love for them, not manipulating or controlling them. We can’t do this alone. We need to seek God to give us and our child godly wisdom in this world. The desire for understanding is not only for our kids but also for us too. I remember Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
Let us encourage our young adult kids through their transition into adulthood and remind them that we are here when they need us. Most importantly, continue to pray for them to become the man or woman God called them to be.
© 2021 Maria Miller. All rights reserved.