When our adult kids struggle through trials, how can we support them? How can we help them along without helping them too much?
With both of our kids married and out of the house, you would think life would be a breeze these days. But my oldest and her husband have faced health issues in the last year and a half, with the financial squeeze that comes with appointments and diagnostics. Our baby and his new bride are about to graduate from college and are feeling the pressure of needing to find work –something about needing food and shelter.
So you’ll understand if my momma’s heart is a little anxious.
Moms are supposed to fix things, you know. When my boy says, “Keep your ears open for job possibilities” it makes me want to go out and get him a job. And I sure would like to write a check to cover all the medical bills for my oldest, but we’re not in a place to do that (and should we even?)
I’m figuring out this new “parenting adult children” phase of life. What is our role? What is our responsibility? How can we help but how shouldn’t we help? And what about this worry thing, because bigger kids mean more substantial life issues to face.
I have some advice for you, but please understand that I’m in the season and not looking back with wisdom dripping from my gray hair. (I’ve only found three gray hairs so far.)
Seven Tips for Helping Your Adult Kids Through Struggles
I’m remembering what I’ve had to learn all along as a parent: trials are valuable for my children. Hard times are a test of faith, in which they can learn to persevere and become the people God is shaping them to be. (See James 1:2-4) I must resist the urge to rescue before God has done his refining his work in them.
Pride is good
Adult children have a good kind of pride. They want to get through the struggle on their own, even if it’s stressful. They want to know that they’ve been faithful through sickness with their spouse, they’ve worked through the financial challenges, they’ve found the job. I remember how I felt at their age, in the times when my husband and I figured out problems for ourselves, without the help of moms and dads. It felt really good. My kids need that feeling.
Struggle builds marriages
Hard times make for beautiful marriages when the couple loves Jesus. I picture our two married children lying in bed with their spouses, whispering together (maybe crying together) about life struggles. They can pray together in the dark and hold each other and become all the closer for the trials that get them talking, praying, and working problems as a team.
Jesus is a better provider than you are
Our resources as parents are limited, so our kids really need the provision of the Good Shepherd. As I see the immediate needs of our grown kids, it is an opportunity for me to adore the Lord. Just this morning I was saying, “Jesus, you have unlimited resources. You can make good things where good things didn’t exist a minute ago. You love my children more than I ever could, and you see their needs (physical and spiritual) more clearly than I can.” I turn my worry to worship and trust the Lord with my kids.
Listen and encourage
Seeing my kids struggle has brought up a lot of memories. I can listen to my kids and sympathize. My husband and I have been through sickness and financial struggle and looking for jobs out of college. We can share stories of how God helped us get through those seasons and how precious the hard times were for the growth of our souls and our marriage.
Help in appropriate ways
Lastly, I can do some things to help. We can’t pay all the medical bills, but I can deliver some groceries as a gift to my daughter and her husband. It feels like something a mom can do, without interfering a whole bunch. And I did hear about a possible job for my son, so I passed that on to him but won’t bring it up again. It’s the help he asked for, but I can leave it in his hands to figure out. And I can pray for my kids because Jesus will listen and respond. That’s amazing (and why would I worry when they’re in his hands?)
Respect the men
Most importantly, my son and my son-in-law need me to show them respect. I need to make sure that my involvement always acknowledges their role as head of the home.
So there you have it –advice from the trenches. Hope it helps!
With love from Montana,
Christy Fitzwater is a writer and pastor’s wife living in Kalispell, Montana. She has a daughter who is married and a son in college. Christy writes to help people know God, and you can find her new book about becoming blameless on Amazon. Or follow her devotional blog at ChristyFitzwater. You can follow Christy on Instagram here!