It’s that time of the year again for us. Transition is in the air. We just moved our older son, David, back to Waco for his third year at Baylor University. And our younger son, Connor, is gearing up for the start of his eighth grade year at Wylie Junior High. For some, that transition can’t come fast enough (get those kids back in school). For others, the adjustment is really challenging (early mornings, new routines, countless activities or practices).
For us, this time of year always brings about a new process of releasing our kids. They’re growing, maturing, and entering new seasons of their lives. As they get older and enter that new phase of things, there is a natural and necessary progression of them becoming more independent and us as parents giving up measures of control. The ultimate goal is complete release, as our kids become fully autonomous adults in the real world.
So the question that we wrestle through each year at this time is: how do we release our kids well? Here’s what Adina and I try to be purposeful in (we definitely are not perfect in this at all):
- We have intentional conversation about where our kids are at mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. We want heavenly, Spirit-breathed wisdom for our children (James 1:5, 3:17). So we ask each other a ton of questions and have many discussions as parents. What are their strengths? Where do they need to grow? What do we need to keep an eye on? What are they excelling at? What can we release over to them? What should we be doing to help our kids mature? What new expectations should we have of them, or what new responsibilities should they take on? We’ll even let our kids have input and hear what they think.
- We pray for them as much as we can (1 Thess. 5:17). We pray and intercede that they will encounter the presence of God and experience the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives in real and tangible ways. We pray that they will have a love for God’s Word and be passionate, extravagant worshippers. We pray for their friends, teachers, coaches, and whoever else will have a place of influence in their lives. We pray the blood of Jesus over them and pray against the schemes of the enemy. We pray leadership, calling, and destiny over them in the Kingdom of God.
- We renew our trust and hope in Jesus that He is working in the hearts and mind of our kids (Phil. 1:6). There is ultimately only so much a parent can do to shepherd and lead their children to the place of total surrender to Jesus. At some point, their faith must become their own, and they must choose to give themselves completely to Him. Honestly, the best way to lead our kids to a life fully submitted to Jesus is to model for them that devotion and surrender. Our time spent in the presence of God does more to shape the heart of children than anything we can teach them verbally.
- We remind ourselves that it’s okay to let our kids fail. For our children, it’s a hard but critical part of becoming a mature adult. We have to let our kids learn from their mistakes and allow them to take responsibility for their choices and actions (Gal. 6:7). And we have to allow our kids to discover what they excel at, and what they don’t. It’s okay if our kids are not great at sports, music, or academics. God has a plan for their lives, and our job is help them discover what that plan is.
- We find our identity in Jesus, not in the choices or performance of our kids (2 Corinth. 5:17). This is particularly challenging when our kids get older and begin to make decisions that are not in alignment with the heart of our Heavenly Father. It can become a source of tremendous shame and guilt for a parent who has tried to lead their kids to full surrender to Jesus. We remind ourselves that our kids’ choices are a not a reflection on us as parents. We certainly have not been perfect parents, but ultimately we are not responsible for the choices they make, especially when they become independent adults.
Releasing our kids is not for the faint at heart. It takes a ton of work and intentionality. And there may be other steps you think of as part of the releasing process. In it all, I pray the Lord will you give you wisdom in how to proceed. May He grant you Spirit-led discernment in how to age-appropriately empower your children and release a measure of control over their lives!