What happens when your young adult child is ready to leave home and you haven’t taught him everything he needs to know yet? Probably not the catastrophes you’re imagining. Heather Wagner offers some poignant tips for parenting young adults, including what to worry about, what not to, and one critical cooking lesson.
My youngest son was getting ready for his first job interview when he walked into the living room and presented me with a dress shirt. It must have been wadded into a ball and shoved into the dark recess of a dresser drawer because ‘wrinkled’ doesn’t cover the state of this sad piece of clothing.
Wilted rag? Yep, that’s more appropriate.
Amused, but also a little irritated, I gave him the look and said, “I think you can iron that shirt yourself.” His eyes widened and his arms fell limply to his side. With an expression that suggested I’d just kicked him in the stomach, he answered softly,
“But Mom, you never taught me how.”
Wait. What? I flipped through the color-coded rolodex in my brain and realized he was right.
I clearly remembered walking my oldest son through the process, but I’d never taught the baby of the family how to iron a dress shirt. Okay, that’s probably not bad enough to have my mom-of-the-year card revoked, but I still dropped the ball on imparting a basic skill to my kid.
I apologized to my son, ironed his shirt, and set aside time the next day for a lesson. But as I stood behind the ironing board pressing his collar, an anxious feeling settled on my shoulders.
I started to worry about what else I’d forgotten to teach my son. And that is a slippery slope, my friends. I wish I had immediately gone to the Word, but I didn’t.
I sat in my fear for a few days and swallowed the lies the enemy fed me about my worth as a parent. Thankfully, the Lord stepped in and gave me the encouragement I needed during my morning devotion.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Parenting emerging adults is an experience that definitely requires the peace of God! For years, we work to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to be safe and successful, but as your child’s adolescence draws to a close, you might find yourself battling a sense of urgency to cover all the bases before they graduate.
SURRENDER YOUR FEARS
Perhaps you’ve sought wisdom from parents who’ve walked this road before you. Maybe you’ve read a book, an article, or a blog titled something like, “The 20 Most Important Things to Teach Your Children Before They Leave Home.”
Those things can be helpful, and they are not bad in and of themselves. In fact, if one hadn’t mentioned showing our daughter how to turn off the water supply line, I never would have thought to do so before we dropped her off at school.
Did I just add something to your list? Sorry! If you’re like me, and find comfort and security from checking things off a to-do list, this may require a little more effort, but I urge you to use these resources as a tool and not as a rule book.
You know your child best.
And let’s be honest, some of the recommendations you’ll see are not that practical; not every young adult needs to know how to plan, prepare, and serve a meal for 50 people before they leave home.
If you’re sitting in this season, too, and feeling worried, I want to encourage you to hear what I’m about to say and fully embrace it: We can’t shove our 40+ years of life experience into the last six months of our kids’ high school careers.
We just can’t.
And that’s okay because there isn’t a finish line in parenting. When they’re off on their own and run into a problem they can’t handle or a question they can’t answer, they’ll call you. It’s pretty awesome, and I’ll share more on that in a minute.
Sometimes it isn’t our children who aren’t ready.
We’re not ready.
We’re scared that something bad will happen to our babies because we didn’t teach them the right skills or have the right conversations. If you feel condemned, it’s not from Him. Remember that God chose you specifically to be the parent of your child.
He knew your skill set, your strengths, and your weaknesses. And He still chose you. So when you notice fear seeping into your spirit, take it to the Father. He’ll take care of us, and He’ll take care of them. We can only do our best and trust the rest to Him.
“He does not fear bad news, nor live in dread of what may happen. For he is settled in his mind that Jehovah will take care of him” (Psalm 112:7, TLB).
Since our oldest left for college, I have prayed this Scripture time and time again. Sometimes over her and sometimes for myself. When she heads back to school late at night, when there’s a tornado warning in the city in which she’s studying, when Covid cancels the internship she needs to graduate, Psalm 112:7 is a peace-bringer for sure.
LESSONS FROM EXPERIENCE
Are you waiting for a list? I don’t have a long one. You’ve probably covered the basics already, but I will share a few things that I’ve learned along the way. I hope you’ll find this insight helpful.
1 | Finding a Health Care Provider
Before your young adult packs up and heads out, find a primary health care provider who accepts your insurance before they arrive on location.
You can do an initial search, but encourage your child to take ownership of the process by letting them review doctors’ biographies, ratings, and office locations before discussing what could make one provider a better fit than another. This is a great time to talk about how referrals and copays work for your family, what they need to take with them to a doctor’s appointment, and any health-related issues in your family history that their new doctor might need to know about.
Additionally, know that even if you’re responsible for the financial side of your child’s healthcare, they’re going to have to sign a consent form before a doctor’s representative will speak to you about their account.
Due to privacy laws, this form doesn’t give you access to any information regarding the medical care they receive from their doctor. I know that can be tough to hear, but your child will have to sign yet another consent form if they want to grant you access to their healthcare information.
2 | Conflict Resolution
Living with other people is going to provide your young adult with lots of learning opportunities. Give it a week. Yes, I’m being serious.
They’ll call you because they need to vent.
They’ll call you because no one else is on their side.
They’ll call you because it isn’t fair. Mostly they’ll call you because you’re safe. Even though you’re not in the same place, you’re still home.
Sometimes you’ll listen and chuckle on the inside. Other times, you’ll want to get in your car, jump on a plane, or even hitchhike to go ‘mom-handle’ the situation. If you’re preparing for your first send-off, here’s a peek into how those conversations might start:
“Tim just shoves food wrappers between his bed and the wall. Now ants are everywhere!”
“After Greg meal preps, our whole suite smells like tuna and boiled eggs for two days!”
“Tina’s creepy boyfriend is pretty much living in our apartment now. And he’s eating my food!”
“Ann borrows my car all the time, but never offers to pay me gas money!”
Learning how to manage conflict is a skill that is difficult to grasp. Even as adults, we don’t always handle it well. Partly because it requires both humility and the maturity to look at a situation from the perspective of another person, but mostly because we all love to be right.
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart” (Proverbs 21:2).
Friends, we can teach our kids 50 skills off a checklist, but learning to deal with conflict comes through experience. And sometimes they’re not going to get it right.
Sometimes our sweet little angel babies are going to be part of the problem. Be available to listen and to help them navigate their feelings and frustrations, but don’t step in to save them from every unpleasant experience. As weird as it may sound—conflict can serve as a springboard for great growth.
And this growth comes with some pretty amazing rewards.
3 | Finding Fellowship
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
I want you to get excited! I know it may feel like you’re just heading into a season full of letting go, but you’re also walking toward some pretty amazing hellos. As your child ventures out on a new path, you may suddenly have a whole new circle of young people to love and encourage.
I call my daughter’s closest friends my ‘bonus girls’. Yes, I get to pray for these ladies on the daily, but I also have the privilege of finding creative and meaningful ways to show them the love of Jesus.
You’re going to love these kids like your own, and they’re going to love you, too. There will be some tears along the way, but there will also be a lot of laughing. In fact, if your child happens to send you a text asking how to cook a turkey in the microwave, know that it might be a viral social media prank in which kids compare their parents’ funny responses to ridiculous questions. It was hilarious! If you’re curious, I responded with two words: “You can’t.”
The new friendships your child forges during this time of transition will be beautiful to behold, so as you’re lifting up your child to the Father, start lifting up those who are going to be walking beside them on the next step of their journey. You may not know their names, but He does.
Whether your emerging adult is heading into the workforce, trade school, college, or the military, the months ahead will be filled with nerves and excitement.
Should we plan and prepare for the transition?
But please, sweet friends, don’t waste another moment worrying over things that God already has covered. Enjoy this chapter of your child’s story, and look ahead with joyful expectation knowing that the One who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine has prepared the road ahead for their good and His glory.
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16, NIV).
They’ll never be alone, and neither will we.
Do you have any tips on parenting young adult children—before or after they leave the nest? Share with us in the comments!
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