YOUR KIDS ARE GOING TO GROW UP!
As a parent, you only have so much time to prepare your children to be adults…and then it’s time for them to move out. Whether they go to college, move straight into the work force, or sit on your couch unemployed watching TV, adulthood is coming. You only have so much time to prepare them for it.
- Freshman – 208 weeks
- Sophomores – 156 weeks
- Juniors – 104 weeks
- Seniors – 52 weeks
This past year’s seniors have graduated. Another year has passed, and we’re one year closer to your child graduating. Are they ready? More importantly, are they ready?
For me, I moved back in a lot:
- I first moved out at 19….and then back home at 20
- Then I moved out at 22…and back home at 23
- The I moved out at 23…and back home at 26
- Then I moved at 26…and back home at 29
If you want to feel the urgency of the ticking clock until your kid reaches adulthood, buy a bunch of marbles and a jar. Then, calculate how many weeks they have until they graduate, and put that many marbles in the jar. Each week, take a marble out of the jar. Suddenly, you’ll feel the urgency of your maturing child and, weekly, you’ll remind yourself to be intentional about preparing them to grow up.
How to Prepare Your Child to Graduate and Not Keep Moving Back Home!
Five areas where you need to prepare your child to launch!
As a disclaimer before I continue, NO ONE is perfectly prepared in all of these areas at age 18. Most of us haven’t mastered all five of these areas by age 30. Don’t look at these as a score card so much as a guide for how to prepare your child to launch into adulthood!
Part of being a parent is letting go, and letting go means they get to make their own choices. Giving them the freedom to make choices is also giving them the freedom to make bad choices.
You can do everything right, and they can still make bad choices. You can guide them. You can love them. You can model a godly life. And they can still choose foolishness. This list isn’t intended in any way to be a punching bag or a way to judge anyone. It’s intended to help you prepare your child to launch!
DIRECTIONALLY – Do they have a direction?
One of the hardest things for anyone to do in life is decide who they want to be when they grow up. For some people, they never discover who they want to be. As a parent, one of the best things you can do for your child is help them on that journey.
For me personally, I didn’t give much of any thought to the direction of my life until I graduated high school. My grades were at best average in high school. I only applied to two colleges while in high school (and I didn’t get into either one). The night of my graduation, I remember distinctly thinking to myself, “What did I do the last four years?” It wasn’t until several years later that I discovered a direction for my life. That meant it took me eight years to graduate college. While I like where my life brought me, I imagine an alternate reality where I have all I currently have, plus a masters degree. At this point, getting a masters seems unlikely.
The 17 year old version of you decided who adult you was going to become!
That’s a crazy thought. So much of who you are today was shaped by the decisions the teenage version of you made. Maybe you love your life, or maybe you have deep regrets. Either way, I imagine that you wish the you of today could go back and tell yourself to avoid certain paths, or to pursue certain paths.
Well, you can’t go back in time and change your decisions, but you can be a guide to your child.
You can’t (and shouldn’t) control your child’s destiny, but you can do everything in your power to give them some forward direction. You can explore career paths. You can give them guidance. You can have them do strength finder tests. Guide them!
It’s okay for them to not know who they want to be or what they want to do!
Given that most college students change majors somewhere between 3 to 5 times, even most of the people that KNOW what they want to do at 18, don’t REALLY KNOW what they want to do.
What you don’t want is a child with absolutely no direction or guidance wasting years of their life after high school doing nothing. You also don’t want your child going severely into debt (student loans) while not knowing where they’re headed.
I personally went to community college until I figured out what I wanted to do. Classes were dirt cheap, and many of my professors were actually University of Texas professors. I was able to complete all of my core classes except one science class (and I took a bunch of really cool random classes like audio engineering) before going to a far more expensive Bible college.
MATURITY – Do they act like an adult?
At 18, your child is legally an adult. That doesn’t mean they will act like one.
In our culture, failure to grow up has become such a significant issue that they made a movie about it called, “Failure to Launch.” The movie stars Matthew McConaughey as a 35 year old man who still lives with his parents. He has a job. He’s personable. He’s obviously good looking. He just never grew up. While he’s a man by almost all standards, when it comes to maturity, he’s still a little boy.
Delayed adolescence is almost becoming an epidemic in our culture. Your child needs to know how to interact on a deep level. They need to know how to talk to adults. They need to know to be responsible for themselves. Children are are taken care of by their parents. Parents are the safe guard against immaturity. By the time your child graduates high school, you need to shift your role from safe guard to guide.
You need to prepare your child to live independently.
When your kid graduates, they should behave more like you than their little sister!
FINANCIALLY – Can they handle money responsibly?
When it comes to money, sometimes raw statistics can be incredibly powerful.
- The average total debt for the college graduating class of 2013 is $35,200. *
- They have $26,000 in Federal loans
- They have $19,000 in private loans
- They have $18,000 in state loans
- They have $3000 in credit card debit
- Average credit card debt for an American is $4,878 **
- Average credit card debt for a card owner that carries a balance is $8,220
Imagine the generous life they would have if they simply applied these five principles:
- Don’t spend money you don’t have
- Always give a percentage of your income away right off the top (if you’re not a church-goer, teach them to give to charities)
- Always save a percentage right off of the top
- Always have an emergency fund
- Don’t buy more house than you can afford
BONUS FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS:
Considering all our nation has gone through over the last 5 years, those five pieces of advise (okay, six) could have saved millions of people from significant stress.
SPIRITUALLY – Do they have a faith that stands and grows on it’s own?
A borrowed faith is a useless faith when you’re on your own!
I’m not a fan of spiritual doomsday statistics. I’ve heard countless statistics about how this generation is leaving the church in record levels. My experience doesn’t seem to confirm that, and neither does academic level research. But all the research does confirm that between the ages of 18 and 22 is when someone is most likely to STOP attending a religious service weekly. And other research seems to indicate that age 16 is the year when they decide what they’re going to do when they graduate.
As a parent, the most long-lasting thing you can do for your child is develop within them a deep faith of their own. Their football career will likely end with high school. If they’re really talented, maybe they’ll play sports in college. If they’re world class, they’ll play through the first 20 years of adulthood (which is extremely unlikely). It’s going to end, and most likely sooner than later. Whether it’s sports, band, cheer-leading, or some other extracurricular, they end with high school or MAYBE college! Hours and hours of practices, lessons, and select tournaments leads them to a career that ends usually with high school! Are you getting my point? They come to an end.
The spiritual deposits you make last for an eternity!
While that sentence pits sports and discipleship against each other, I don’t actually think they’re in competition. I know a guy who was in band in high school, had a job, had a girlfriend, was in the top 10% of his class, made lots of music in his free time, hung out with friends, and was one of the most plugged in students in the youth group (he actually led worship at one church on Sunday mornings and another on Sunday nights). Your child can be extremely busy with extracurriculars and sports and still be fully plugged into church, IF their spiritual development takes priority over extracurriculars.
That doesn’t come from token church visits or occasionally pushing them towards church involvement. It comes from you investing in your child spiritually to such a degree that they want to plug into your church. It comes from them seeing you having a daily devotion time, and wanting to follow your example. It comes from you living a life of devotion to Christ that is so appealing they want what you have.
I’m going to be honest. I feel I can do a pretty good job of predicting which students who graduate my ministry will struggle spiritually and which will thrive spiritually. It’s not because I’m brilliant; the patterns are just that consistent. When a parent pours into their kid and makes consistent and meaningful spiritual deposits, that child knows how to grow spiritually on their own.
You can’t control what choices they will eventually make, but you can control the level to which you have prepared them to be on their own.
- Does your child know how to to grow spiritually on their own?
- Does your child engage with the church in a multi-generational setting?
- Do they know how to worship in a setting not catering to their preferences?
- Are they part of the body, or just a consumer of the body?
- Do they really own their faith, or are they borrowing yours?
MORALLY – Do they have personal moral boundaries?
They suddenly have incredible access to their favorite sin!
This isn’t just a Christian problem. We all know someone who went off to college with multiple scholarships, and lost all the money because they decided to party their way through freshman year. This stuff ruins lives, and leads to horrible regrets.
- Does your child have values?
- Does your child have boundaries?
- Does your child know when they’ve gone too far?
- When it comes to your family rules, does your child know the “why” behind the “what?”
- Is opportunity the only thing stopping your child from acting out?
- Is the fear of getting caught the only thing stopping your child from acting out?
By instilling values in your child (rather than just enforcing rules), you prepare your child to make good choices on their own!
If you liked this post, you’ll probably also enjoy this previous blog.