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What Your Adult Child Needs From You

By Dennis Rainey

Thanks for your comments and engagement with the three previous posts about “Right Sizing Relationships with Your Adult Children.” We’ve definitely touched a raw nerve that is just under the veneer of many families of faith … leading me to believe that none of us parents wants to admit that our “perfect” family Christmas card pictures don’t really reflect the current relational dynamics of real family life.

So this week I have two things I want to share with you. First, I want to share some thoughts with you about what your adult children need from you as a parent. I promise I’ll be brief because, secondly, I really want you to listen to a new message I gave to over 300 parents of adult children.

5 things your adult children need from you

Okay, I want to ask you to pull back and out of the weeds … let’s say to 40,000 feet, where you can see some of the greatest needs your adult children have right now and how you can pursue a healthier relationship with them. I want to challenge you to look at them as younger human beings who are in the thick of some of the most challenging days of adulthood.

Are you looking at the “Big Picture” and the issues they are facing? Then work your way through my brief list and ask God to show you just one of these that you can apply. In terms of baseball and life: One truth driven home is better than three left on base.

1. They need your prayers.

The Apostle Paul reminds us to pray for others and models how we are to pray. (Read Ephesians 3:14-21, then look at my summary and application for parents to pray for their children:

  • Paul took their needs to the One who was at work in their lives (verses 14-16).

  • He prayed for “them to be strengthened” in their “inner being” (v. 16).

  • That they would live by faith in the God who redeemed them (v. 17).

  • That they would know and experience the love of Christ (v. 17-19).

  • And that they would know the One “Who is able to do far more than what we can ask or think…” (v. 20-21).

Paul prayed for those at Ephesus and then let them know what he was praying for them. Your prayers and words mean a lot to your adult children. Pray for them. Then if appropriate, tell them you just did.

2. They need your compassion and encouragement.

Paul again writes to a group of believers that he had profoundly ministered to:

“Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:13-15

There’s a tenderness in this passage that every parent ought to ask God for as you relate to adult children … give them courage, help them (but don’t create an emotional cripple by constantly rescuing them), be patient with them all! And lavishly cover them with grace. Like you and me, they need plenty of grace.

3. They need our love and forgiveness when they fail.

Paul again reminds us:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

They will fail … as will you (and me).

They need to be reminded that the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about forgiveness … God’s forgiveness of us … and the command for us to forgive one another, just as He forgave us.

If you are bitter about how your child failed you … do not let the sun go down (again) on your anger (Ephesians 4:26, 31).

Someone has said, “The longer you carry a grudge, the heavier it gets.” Perhaps it’s time to toss bitterness in the garbage can before you take the cans to the street for pick up.

Do you believe God is capable of helping you be an abundant forgiver and lover of your adult child?

4. They need your continued engagement and pursuit of having a relationship with them.

Because we’ve lived longer and walked with Christ longer than our children, you and I should be more mature and able to pursue a relationship with them.

Love must have its boundaries, but it invites, pursues and initiates. It doesn’t give up (1 Corinthians 13:4-11).

Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Or give in to the “dark side” that is in all our hearts.

5. For some, your adult children may need you to back off.

Back off from teaching, preaching, correcting, second guessing, questioning, “observing,” commenting, hinting, and criticizing.

The Apostle Peter reminds us:

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Write this verse on a post-it note … use this a “wallpaper” for your home page on your computer, iPad, or phone … memorize it and ask God to help you apply “the love that covers a multitude of sins.”

Dennis Rainey

Psalm 112:1-2

Now I want to offer you a bonus … a message I gave to a gathering of adult parents. They expressed so much gratitude that I thought I’d pass it on to you. For your good and for your children (and maybe your grand childlren)…please listen to this message with a teachable heart.

Even better, invite some other parents with adult children to get together, listen and share their thoughts. The need is so great to just talk with others who could be encouraged by your story.

Check out the rest of The Adult Children blog series




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