The Transition to Young Adult
by Drenda Keesee
I used to have the false illusion that once your children grew up, the huge feeling of responsibility would no longer be there, but truthfully, it increases. But don’t let that be a source of discouragement! The reality is that God didn’t create us to ever stop investing in our family and others. Our children are in young adulthood, and although they are navigating very well, it’s challenging to live life in any generation.
The world of grown-ups—buying houses, paying bills, having babies, raising children, taking care of health insurance, taxes, employment, relationships, marriage, and all the responsibilities of life—can be overwhelming to any adult. Young people need our prayers and encouragement!
The role of a parent must…
…change, however, or we create dysfunction in their lives. When they become adults, they are not under our authority any longer, and we must readjust our approach and relationship. You won’t always agree with their decisions or choices, and that’s all right, but you must give them independence and respect.
I spoke to a mother who constantly worried over her adult son, reminding him about past mistakes and warning about future ones, which caused him to nearly shut her out of his life completely. She treated him like a little boy, making him feel disrespected and like he was already doomed to fail even though he was trying to move in the right direction. She finally realized she was doing the exact thing to her son that her mother had done to her. I encouraged her to apologize for getting into his personal business and to say positive things about him while he was in this valley. “I believe in you. I respect you as a man, and I know you will make the right decisions.” Then get out of the way and pray! She took my advice and happily reported they were planning a long-awaited visit and were on speaking terms again.
We all probably have had someone in our life who played this nagging role. Can you remember how it felt to be disrespected by someone with comments that placed guilt or fear on you? How did you respond? We usually run the other way or submit to their controlling words outwardly, but inwardly build incredible resentment that can turn to bitterness and estrangement over time.
We all need to know we are loved and accepted as well as forgiven for any past mistakes. People that “guilt” us into doing what they want quickly become a person we inadvertently or intentionally choose to avoid. If your first comment to your adult child’s phone call is, “You never call me,” that’s manipulative, and you aren’t likely to get more calls, and if you do, they will be out of obligation, not out of a relationship. Build a bridge by being positive, grateful, and let them talk about what they want. If you start badgering them with an interrogation, they won’t call or visit again very soon or often.
I know how hard it is to release our adult children to God, but we must. Trying to fix their mistakes and “do” for them what they must do for themselves creates dysfunction and codependency. Look at the epidemic of adult young men who have not accepted responsibility for any of their choices because often their parents have prolonged their childhood by letting them remain little boys at home playing video games instead of developing their futures. You cannot do for someone what they need to do, or they will never learn the consequences of their decisions. Handing your children off to God is important; learning to depend on God and His direction for their life is, too. You are in a new season in your life’s journey that God wants to develop as well. The forties and fifties are a time to train and teach others what you’ve learned in life, yet that wisdom must be sought out; where there is no honor, you can teach nothing.
Recently on a trip to Japan, I saw the positive impact of honor instilled in young people from an early age. As a result, young people seek their parents’ wisdom and respect and honor elders’ advice. A young person gains a great advantage in life to learn from the mistakes of someone older and wiser. This is a vintage value that has eroded badly in our culture, and we’re paying a price for it.
Honor and respect are vintage values young parents should nurture in their children. Start it by your example of how you show honor to your parents, to those who have served in our nation’s military, and to those who serve as police officers, firefighters, ministers, coaches, and teachers. These instill much-needed good manners. Navigating the release of adult children is a process that can involve great joy as well as some bumps along the road. We all make some mistakes starting out. I encourage you not to overreact to the bumps of adolescence or young adulthood choices.
Hopefully, you started letting them make some quality decisions in the teen years, so your young adult children are already experienced. I’m not talking about smoking pot or premarital sex; I’m talking about mixing freedom with responsibility. If you did it all for them and shielded them from any repercussions of bad decisions, they will have to learn a few things the harder way now. Pray for them every day and offer your counsel without judgment where they will receive it, always with encouragement and the reassurance that you believe in them and God at work in their lives. Stop paying for their mistakes or it will prolong them growing up and taking responsibility.
If your child is not serving God, remember that He sees them and He is working on their heart as a result of your prayers. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Pray their eyes will be open to God’s ways and their heart will be softened to hear His voice and obey Him. Then, let go, even if you have to go through this process every day.
If you haven’t already done so, start looking for ways to build your personal life and devote your time to those who need and desire what you have to offer. Why sit at home fretting over your children and accomplish nothing else in the process? You can’t add one minute to your life by worrying, but you can throw your life away by micromanaging your children. You have wisdom and gifts others need.
You may also have other children who have not turned away from you who are being neglected while you chase after the one who has. This can feel like rejection to them. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength. If your life is positive and attractive, it offers security and stability to all your family.
Some parents of adult children turn away from God when their children rebel. If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small (Proverbs 24:10). If you’ve let the bumpy road of life cause you to stray, get back where you need to be in God’s household, so when your child returns, he or she will know you will already be there waiting.
ps…Are you looking for a good church? Be sure and listen on Saturday evening or catch the 3 services on Sunday for Faith Life Church!
*Excerpt from “The New Vintage Family” by Drenda Keesee
Drenda Keesee’s contagious zeal and humorous personal experiences help make her ministry of spiritual, emotional, and relational wholeness one that will bless your life and spark a new fire in your spirit.
A wife of over 30 years and a mother of five children, Drenda has ministered at churches, seminars, and conferences, and through the mediums of television and radio, for more than 20 years.
Her books, The New Vintage Family, Better Than You Think, and She Gets It are available wherever books are sold. In these heartfelt books, Drenda shares her personal journey and the life lessons that have brought her to where she is today, as well as practical answers that all people need to live a joyful life.
Drenda and her husband Gary founded Faith Life Now, a ministry designed to spread the message of freedom in the areas of finances, faith, marriage, and family. Tune in for their weekly messages here. Faith Life Now hosts conferences worldwide and sponsors both Fixing the Money Thing, which Drenda co-hosts with her husband Gary and Drenda.
Through their own life experiences, the Keesee’s have found the principles from God’s Word to be powerful and effective. At one point, Drenda was a young, suicidal feminist with no hope of ever being “good enough” for her own standards of perfection. She never wanted the “inconvenience” of a husband or children, and she was on her own path to success. But the stress of trying to achieve perfection and perform for love left her broken and used. She had success, but it was nothing compared to the pain and loneliness it had also brought.
That’s when God got a hold of her heart. It was there—at her lowest point—that she found the One who accepted and loved her, faults and all. Since that transformation, Drenda has had a passion to reach women who find themselves where she once was.
She married Gary after attending college, and there she found herself in a personal boot camp of sorts. She says, “I cried and told God, ‘I can do anything but be a wife and mother.’” She committed to learning how to do it God’s way. Through the many years of raising their children and struggling to make ends meet, Drenda learned from their mistakes. “I didn’t know how to be a wife and mother, but God saved our marriage, taught us how to parent our children for success, showed us how to have financial success, and then the irony of all ironies, He called us to ministry.” It’s truly because of these life experiences that Drenda can now share so many insightful principles for people who are now going through the same struggles.