And Then They Grew Up – Relationships with Adult Children

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Editors Note: This article is written by BCC Counselor, Colleen Ryan as part of our series on Relational Health.  In this series, our counselors are sharing biblical principles to strengthen and improve all kinds of relationships.


I’m sure most of us can remember the joy we felt as we were anticipating the birth of our children.  The awe of wondering what he/she would be like, their interests, type of personality, and who they might look like.  Knowing that we had 18 years to raise them, disciple them, and teach them, it seemed like time was on our side.

Yet, in a blink of an eye, we find ourselves at their high school graduation, ready to launch them into adulthood, and we wonder, where did all the time go?  What is our role now?

If we think back to how we helped them navigate transitioning from crawling to walking to running and then riding a bike, we can all agree that those transitions were essential to their growth.  And so we taught them, encouraged them, and cheered them onto the next transition.

But oftentimes we forget that we also need to be engaged in transitions as well.  We need to begin to let go of some control, encourage them to process through ramifications of their decisions, and seek God for wisdom in making the many decisions of life.  There will come a time when they won’t need to come and ask our permission to go out with friends but instead will need to process it themselves.

Most parents are aiming for a relationship of mutual respect and love by the age of 18, where we can support them through a solid friendship and our fervent prayers.  But how do we get there?  How do we transition from being the ultimate authority figure in their lives to now being a friend and confidante who is praying for them as they navigate life?

Here are a few key principles to incorporate into your relationship:

Give them the freedom to fail.

I don’t know about you, but I learned the most from the poor decisions I made, versus the right ones.  And in facing some failures, our kids have the opportunity to learn, grow, and have their character refined.  Peter made a horrible decision to deny Christ three times.  Yet, he repented, had a change in heart, and was one of the key leaders and preachers in establishing the early church.

Model respect, both verbal and non-verbal.

I’m sure respect was a character quality you were intentional about teaching your kids, and rightfully so.  But we need to ask ourselves the question:  Am I showing respect to them?  Even when you disagree, do you respect them enough to hear them out? Or do you find yourself talking over them? Christ modeled this so well for us. In whatever situation He was in and regardless of the topic of conversation, He always heard them out even when He disagreed.

Don’t give advice unless it’s asked for.

Ouch!  This is a tough one; because for 18 years, we’ve given advice regardless if it’s been asked for or not.  We had wisdom, knowledge, and experience we were more than willing to bestow on our kids.  Yet, now as they navigate adult life, they WANT to figure things out on their own, and they NEED the freedom to do that.  Give it to them.

Be their biggest cheerleader.

When they are contemplating a career change or some other weighty decision, give them the freedom to come to you knowing that you will listen with understanding and cheer them on to make the courageous decision that is at hand.  They need to know that you’re on their side.

Speak truth in love.

If there is a weighty issue that is heavy on your heart or an issue of sin that is evident in their life, after much prayer, go to them humbly and speak truth that’s soaked in love.  Your goal shouldn’t be to condemn them or guilt them into repentance but to bring the matter to their attention and leave the results to them and God.  This takes humility and lots of prayer.  (Galatians 2:11-13)

Remind them that you love them.

Regardless of the choices they make, let them know you love them unconditionally and you’re fervent in praying for them.  Unconditional love and unending prayer is an incredible legacy to give to our adult kids.

Although this new season of life will look different for each of us, it is essential that we navigate it well.  We can let our kids know that amidst our love and care for them, we respect them enough to let them live their own lives.

No, it won’t be smooth sailing, but hopefully, we’ve taught them that amidst life being hard and at times uncertain, the goodness and faithfulness of God is steadfast and firm.  The principles from His word will lead and guide them.  (Psalm 1)

Yes, 18 years go quickly.  Time is short.  Yet, the relationship we establish with our adult kids will last our lifetime.

May we navigate these transitions with intentionality as we stay on our knees bringing them, and us, before God’s throne of grace.

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