Launching adult children seems more difficult
than it used to be. In fact, the age at which children
begin to live independently seems to be getting older and
older. Adulthood requires a number of skills. Sometimes
too much freedom can be counterproductive and releasing
kids too early into adult life before they’re ready slows
them down. The period we call adolescence is getting longer
on both ends. Many children are entering adolescence earlier,
and staying later. Many young people are not independent
and on their own until their mid-twenties.
How can you prepare young people for adulthood?
Here are some thoughts that may help you along the path.
1) Turning 18 is an important milestone but has little
to do with independence. Just because a person is 18 years
old doesn’t make him or her mature. Before they reach that
age and certainly around that time it’s important to talk
about how freedom and maturity are linked together and
debunk the “I’m 18 and therefore an adult” myth. Some kids
want freedom without being responsible leading to all kinds
of temptation and problems.
2) Relationship is very important. You will likely have
to put some pressure on your young person during these
years so keeping relationship open is essential for reaching
the heart. The book Parenting
is Heart Work gives some
practical suggestions for connecting on a heart level.
You may want to read that book as you’re trying to help
launch your young adult.
3) You, as a parent, will want to require certain signs
of responsibility in order for your young person to enjoy
new privileges of getting older. Typically responsibility
is demonstrated by checking in on time, having a job, showing
respect for parents and other authorities, helping out
around the house, maintaining a positive relationship with
siblings, and attending church.
4) The young person who goes to college and takes advantage
of the freedom to violate family values is in serious danger.
Although college is a tremendous privilege allowing a young
person to have greater opportunity in the job market, character
strength is most important. Investing in a child who lacks
character is often a waste of money. Some young adults
need to take the hard road, learn some of the realities
of working hard and being serious about life before they
go back to school and appreciate the privilege.
5) What do you do if they don’t comply with your family
values and ground rules? Before you start removing privileges,
use the pressure of relationship, continual reminders,
checking up on them, and an appeal to their conscience.
Warn them about the danger they’re in and look for ways
to teach them about life. If you aren’t seeing the necessary
progress, then you’ll have to start applying clear consequences.
6) Gradually transfer financial responsibilities to the
young person. Adult children should be paying for their
own cell phone, car insurance, gas, car repairs, entertainment,
clothing, and specialty toiletries. This transfer should
begin during the teenage years when children start earning
money. It may also helpful to charge them rent or for household
expenses. Many times young adults have too much discretionary
income. This can give them an unrealistic view of finances
and how to budget. That uncommitted money often provides
freedom to indulge in temptations.
7) Teach your young person to handle money. Your young
adult should have a checking account, but be careful of
credit cards. A debit card or ATM card may be a better
option. We wish young adults would learn from their mistakes
quickly but the lessons learned through credit card debt
are often slow to come and painful when they arrive. Teach
about budgeting money. Allow young people to make mistakes
and learn from experience but if they’re stuck and not
learning, then you may have to step in and take more control
of their finances or move them to a “cash only” system
for a while. Paying cash for everything is a great way
to learn how quickly money disappears.
8) Don’t tolerate violence. If a young person hits, pushes,
or grabs you, then take action immediately by calling the
police. In the same way, don’t instigate physical violence
by entering their space in an intimidating way. Having
a physical altercation isn’t helpful and sets the family
up for some serious danger. Young people need to know that
force is never the right way to solve a problem.
9) The bottom line is that living in your home is a privilege.
Your willingness to pay for college, provide meals, and
a place to live is part of being in your family. But it
can’t be taken for granted. In many cases unmotivated or
rebellious young adults must lose some of those privileges
in order to develop the internal character necessary to
handle the basics of life. So you may have to require that
your young person leave the house if he or she is unwilling
to demonstrate responsibility.
10) Pray for your young person every day. Ask God to give
you relational connecting points as well as heart moments
where you can help that young person realize some of the
key principles of life. Pray that God will change your
child’s heart and help him or her see the value of a life
committed to Christ. You may want to read the book Family
Heart Moments. Although the stories are about younger children,
you’ll gain some ideas about ways to foster heart moments
in your own family.
Use the time of launching your young adult as a time to
grow spiritually yourself. Trust is one of those things
that needs to be developed in new situations. God wants
to grow you in some important ways and may use you to help
others in the process. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
for some encouragement along these lines.
May God richly bless you as you do the important work
of parenting. The job never ends.