Letting Your Adult Children Go

Part Three: “Hey, I got this”

Over the last couple of weeks, I have shared my heart as a father and the releasing of my adult children into the world. While writing this third installment to Letting Your Adult Children Go, I learned that as Christians, both Fathers and mothers might basically be on the same page biblically, but they’ll come from different perspectives. Let me illustrate.

As the father and a man, I come from the position of protection, provision, and guidance, but I try and follow God’s Word and therefore I must have the faith to release the kids to His care when they leave home.

A Christian mother, on the other hand will probably believe the same thing biblically about faith vs fear, and letting the kids go as the father does, but they will come from a position of love, nurturing, availability, encouragement, meeting the kid’s needs, and tenderly befriending them.

A Christian marriage bases both perspectives on the threefold cord of Ecclesiastes 4:12, And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. This cord is analogous to a partnership with Christ because with Christ, all things are possible [1].

Anyway, what I needed this week was a mother’s perspective to round out our series. Newsflash, I am not a mother and I wouldn’t even presume to know what goes on in her mind.

Consequently, I asked a mother with whom I deeply respect because of her intelligence and biblical knowledge to help me out. I presented her with this question, “How did you handle letting go of your kids when they left home and ventured out into the world and severed their ties with you?” This is her response to me.

First I needed to let my children know that no matter what, I love them, even though I don’t agree on some of their lifestyles. They know where I stand in all my beliefs and values. I will always have my arms around my children metaphorically speaking, but I will only cross that barrier and pathway when they ask. I listen but I totally have to give my children up to God and leave it there with Him and mean it, and then watch God work out the issue. That’s where I find peace. God’s Word commands us not to be anxious about anything, but by prayer and with supplications be thankful to him, and I do. . .daily.

v6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
v7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus [Philippians 4:6-7].

Many times a week, I need to leave my children at the feet of Jesus because I think I know more than God and I worry and try to solve their problems, but then God very gently gives me a reminder, AGAIN. . .‘Hey, I got this!’

I believe that as parents, we walk a parallel pathway with our kids. It is a pathway that runs side by side with our children as we walk to accomplish the same goal in life under God’s direction. We can’t keep crossing over from our pathway into theirs and try to run or figure out their life for them. Our job as parents is to guide and teach them the truth of Gods Word and plant the seed. After which we BACK OFF and let God take over and build His character within their life! Then we sit back and watch them grow.

The question then is, how do we let go of our children once they leave home and sever their ties with us? It is simply this, all we can do is teach our kids our values and beliefs and then turn them back over to God and not mingle our pathways with theirs unless asked. Like we learned last week, our faith will dictate how easy this will be [2] or not. Our children are a heritage of the Lord [3] and after we bring them up under the admonition of the Lord [4], and they leave home, we are to return them back unto Him who gave them [5].

They are adults now and my parenting days are over. My relationships with them changed the day they left. The only trouble was I wasn’t ready to stop being a parent yet. I let the letting go process get me mixed up with the holding on instincts. On the one hand, I knew it was the appropriate thing to do, but on the other hand, some of their lifestyles weren’t what I’d brought them up to experience and go through. I didn’t teach them that! I didn’t bring them up for that to happen. They say that our children are the reports cards of our parenting. I was confused so I asked the Lord, “What should I do. How do I let go? How do I treat them?

The Lord spoke to me and said, “Treat them like adults because that is what they are. You’re still their dad and that will never change, but they no longer need you as a dad. They belong to me now. I release you from my mandate of bringing them up for my glory. They are no longer your responsibility. I entrusted them to you for a time, and you have done well with them. I will use them for my glory just like I used you my son. If you trust me. . .then let them come to me.

Christian parents seem to have the most difficulty in letting go because we fear that the temptations they will face in the wicked world that lays beyond our home will entice them to go bad and live for the devil, for he is a crafty and subtle serpent [6]. Letting go is a complicated emotional challenge that pulls at the very foundation of our family ties.

Let’s pray for our children right now. Repeat after me:

Lord, I trust you implicitly and therefore I return them unto you. Thank you Lord, for giving me the cream of the crop. I release them unto your care, Lord. Protect them as they continue in their lives. I pray Lord that they live for you and forget not their first love. I pray the helmet of salvation on them Lord that they do not forget the pit from which they came, and that they remember the saving knowledge of you Lord. I pray a hedge of protection around them Lord and I call out the warring angels to encamp round about them and protect them from the wiles of the enemy. I pray the shield of faith on them to cover them fully that it repels all the fiery darts of the enemy. I pray that they wear their loinbelt of truth Lord and that they remain in your Word. All of the weapons that you have given us Lord, ALL of them hinge on your word. I pray the breastplate of righteous on them that it protects each and every one of them from the blows of the enemy and that they always think of you and the right thing to do according to your Word. Lord I pray they shod themselves with the preparation of the Gospel of peace Lord that they always will have peace in their hearts. Thank you Lord for giving me my children. I pray that all children come to the saving knowledge of you, your grace, and what you did on the Cross for all of mankind. Lord, they can only find happiness and peace in you Lord. In your precious name I pray, AMEN.

[1] Philippians 4:13
[2] Fear is the opposite of faith and we have to turn them back to Him.
[3] Psalms 127:3
[4] Ephesians 6:4
[5] Isaiah 43:1
[6] Genesis 3:1

Letting Your Adult Children Go

Part Two: Giving them back

He lifted the receiver and dialed an all too familiar number. It rang once, twice, three times, and then four times. Finally, someone picked up the receiver at the other end, but there was silence. He spoke into the phone:

“Hello, is anybody there?”

“Papa!” the voice yelled. “Mommy!” she yelled again. He heard a thud as the toddler dropped the phone and evidently ran off to do whatever two year olds do.

There was another pause and a woman finally answered the phone, “Hello, who is this?”

“Hi, it’s me babydoll.”

“Oh, hello dad. . .wassup?”

“Not much happening here honey. I haven’t heard from you this week and was just wondering how you are doing is all.”

“Everything’s fine dad. I’ve just been busy. . .We’re all OK. . .”

Does this phone call resonate with anyone? For the majority of parents, there is nothing more difficult than letting go of our kids. Like I mentioned last week, we spend 18 plus years pouring out our hearts, mind, soul, and love into our kids. Then after 18 plus years, ‘swoosh,’ and in a matter of seconds as the door closes behind them, you swallow your heart, and they’re gone. There is a big hole where my heart used to be. All I heard was the echo of times past. There was dead silence where there used to be laughter, playing, running around, cartoons on Saturday, school events, and games/assemblies. I even miss the fighting between siblings.

As a father, I’ve been protecting and providing for my kids at least 24 years of my life. Now. . .nothing. OK, I understand that there is a coasting period that allows you to acclimate yourself while we break away from the empty emotions of not having them around and the kids begin to sever their ties with us. . .but dead silence? They have new friends, live in new places, and make their own decisions, as I sit here in my recliner wondering what that scary environment will bring to them. Will it swallow them up? Then, there are no phone calls for days, even weeks. What was I going to do with all this residual love I still have for each of them?

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. [Proverbs 22:6 KJV]

All of our kids are miracles, but they are only on loan to us from God. He loaned them to us to raise in the admonition of the Lord [1]. We were to train them in the way that they should go [2], provide for their needs [3], protect them [4], and love and discipline them for their sake [5]. Then we are to return them to God for they are a heritage from Him [6], and therein lay’s the rub.

All we can do (and actually, all we are supposed to do), is teach, train, provide, protect, love and discipline them. Then let them go out under the protection of the Lord. Each one of my kids is a biological part of me and when they leave the nest, I feel like I lost a part of me. When a person loses an appendage, they can experience what they call “Phantom limb.” Not all phantom limbs are painful, but my phantom heart was hurting.

How do I shake this phantom heart syndrome without feeling like I’m abandoning my love for them? How do I resist the urge to continually control their environment, give unsolicited advice, support them, and fear for their welfare? For a Christian, it is a real test of one’s faith. Where and at what age do you draw the line? When do you stop doing for them, what they can and should be doing for themselves? We enable them when we rob them of self-sufficiency. The answer is easy but the conundrum is. . .it is also the hardest thing to do. The answer is, we turn our kids back over to Christ with His love and nurturing. Then we pray for them every day. Christ’s burden is light [7]. The more faith we have in Christ, the less fear we’ll have of their safety, and the easier it will be to turn them back over to Christ.

However, for an earthly father, it is difficult to turn the job of daddy-hood over to another person, even to the person of Jesus Christ. They’ve been my responsibility for 1/3 of my life, and Christ, the creator of the universe, mandated their care to me. Because I love my kids and without compunction, I would gladly die for any one of them in a heartbeat. However, Christ loves them even more [8] and actually, He beat me in dying for them [9].

I’m 72 years old and I am still trying very hard not to butt into my kids affairs. I am sure they are not too happy with me many times. However, they are great kids [10] and still allow dad to be dad, even when I do fail at leaving them alone. At least they know that I care and that there will only be one time in their life that I won’t be there for them or be able to help them out, and that’s when I’m dead and at Jesus’ feet. I hope that I won’t be late in turning them back over to Christ. (Oops, I already failed there as well. I’m so sorry Lord.)

Next week in the final installment of this series, we’ll look at a mother’s viewpoint of letting go of their adult children.

[1] Ephesians 6:4
[2] Proverbs 22:6
[3] 1 Timothy 5:8
[4] Matthew 18:10, 25:40; Mark 10:14
[5] Proverbs 13:24
[6] Psalms 127:3
[7] Matthew 11:28-30
[8] John 3:16
[9] Matthew 27:32-61
[10] Actually they are grown-ups with kids of their own, who in turn, have kids of their own. Yes, I’m a great grandpa.