“I covered my eyes the whole way!” My friend Jan laughed as she recalled a years-ago family trip to Germany. She and her husband had entrusted the navigating and driving to their sons, who were 15 and 20 at the time. All was fine until they turned onto the autobahn. As their car went hurtling down that famous highway Jan discovered she couldn’t bear to watch.
But these decisions, to hand over difficult tasks to their kids, these were purposeful. They were intentional.
Jan and her husband had learned that, as their children neared adulthood, there was an independence that needed to be nurtured. Their annual family trips, like the one to Germany, offered a variety of opportunities for them to turn over the reins, to show their kids that they believed in them, that they had faith in their ability to take on increasingly mature responsibilities.
This wasn’t how they initially approached their children’s growing desire for independence.
“Walking our kids into adulthood was hard,” confides Jan. “It should have been easier than I made it.”
Jan explains that as her children grew into young adults their desire to assume more responsibility for their lives also grew. She and her husband knew this was a normal, even an important part of their development. Still, they found it difficult to let go of the sense that they knew what was best for their kids. At times, this strained their relationship with their young adult children.
“We didn’t listen enough,” says Jan. “They were beginning to know themselves and they knew what they needed.
I relate to what Jan is saying. So often I ask questions with the goal of providing advice, assistance, or insight. I am beginning to see how important attentive listening is to understanding our kids’ unique view on life, to creating an environment where they feel free to reveal their deeper selves.
“But over the years we grew in the Lord and that is what changes families,” adds Jan, with great hope. “Our kids saw us learning and growing. We began saying, ‘I’m sorry. Let me try again.’ That was huge!”
It was at this point that Jan and her husband began to trust their kids with a few adult responsibilities while vacationing together. They prayerfully looked for opportunities to let go, encouraging their kids to use their unique gifts and strengths under the relative safety of their parents’ guidance.
And more than that, they also began to accept their kids’ decisions in the day to day, asking questions where needed and affirming their kids’ problem solving abilities where appropriate. Jan and her husband decided to walk intentionally alongside their children, pouring out their love for them regardless of the paths they chose, recognizing that this is exactly how God loves us.
“We learned to listen more, to ask better questions. We’re still surprised at what they come up with if we just listen.”
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.James 1:19