Letting go of adult children can be a difficult transition for all parents. Christian parents have the added benefit of faith that God will watch over and care for their children throughout their lives. Ideally, parents have given their children over to God throughout the child's life. It is He who loves them the most, knows what is best for them, and is fully able to care for them. Even so, letting go of adult children is an even greater relinquishment as we release them from our homes and into the world. The more we know God, the more we are able to trust that He will care for our children.
What is biblical advice for parents struggling with letting go of their adult children?
Parents invest about twenty years into raising their children, caring for them, teaching them everything from how to walk to how to drive. The love a parent has for a child is sometimes described as a fierce and unbreakable love. Raising a person is one of the most difficult and rewarding endeavors we can undertake. It is no wonder that when it comes time for adult children to go out on their own, many parents struggle.
We learn from the Bible that being a parent requires serious commitment. We are to raise our children in the "discipline and instruction of the Lord" while also taking care not to exasperate them (Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:4–9). We give our children good gifts (Matthew 7:11), provide for their needs (1 Timothy 5:8), and train them in how to live life well (Proverbs 22:6). Often the parents who struggle with letting go are those who have taken the responsibility of parenting most seriously. After years of being so intentional about raising your child well, it is hard to take on a new role.
For some, when our children are ready to go, it causes a degree of fear. There is a vast amount of danger and pitfalls people face in the world and we don't want our children to have difficulty. Letting go means giving up the illusion of control over your child's life.
For others, letting go is a struggle because being a parent has become an all-encompassing identity. Without our children, we're unsure who we are. This is a common experience, but as Christians we know that our identity is ultimately found in Christ. When we realize we've wrapped our worth up in being a parent to our child, we can turn to God and ask Him to reset our perspective.
Even for Christians who have trusted their children to God from the beginning and relied on God for their own sense of identity, entering into a new season can be difficult. God calls us to different ministries at different times. Yet even when we know it is time for the next season, it can be hard to leave something into which we have poured so much. When this is the case, we can remind ourselves that God is sovereign and that He is consistently working to grow us and complete His work in us (Philippians 1:6). We can renew our trust in God for our children, asking that He provide for them, guide them, and protect them. Then we can ask what God has for us next and continue to pursue Him with zeal.
Of course, letting go of adult children does not mean parents no longer have a role in their lives. Rather, it is an adjustment in the relationship. We no longer bear primary responsibility for our child. We have trained them up and now have the joy of watching them grow and learn in adulthood. Often it takes a few years for the child to become comfortable in adulthood. There is likely to be some separation pain, and perhaps tense moments, on both sides of the relationship. But for many, adulthood is a stage in which parents and children become friends.
The healthiest way to let go of our adult children is to entrust them to God. We will continue to care for them, want the best, and offer counsel when sought. If our child does not know Christ, we pray for their salvation and trust that we serve a God who pursues the lost (2 Peter 3:9; John 6:44). If our child is a follower of Christ, we can embrace the joy of being a brother or sister, and co-heir, of Christ with the one we have loved and cared for so much (Romans 8:16–17).
Whether we find letting go difficult or easy, we do so by recognizing that our children are in God's loving and able hands. When you find yourself struggling with letting go, take solace in what God says about Himself in His Word, seek Him in prayer, and then rest in His faithfulness.
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