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By Ken Groen

“Therefore a man leaves his father and mother” (Genesis 2:24, MSG).
Leave: “to go away from someone or something”

This verse was emphatically brought home to me years ago as I counseled young couples who were going to be married. I emphasized to them the importance of making the separation from their parents and forming their own union – separate and distinct in itself. As I’ve grown older and my own children have left home, married, and become parents, I have begun to see the challenge of that verse from the parents’ perspective. We all know in our heads that the object of parenting is to raise independent adults who are growing and thriving in their own right. But as parents who have invested 18 or more years in a child, it is sometimes difficult when that reality is comes to pass.

One of the hardest things, of course, will be to let them go. Where once we called the shots, set the agenda, and determined the boundaries now in many ways the roles are reversing. Increasingly our role is to fit into their lives and to understand what they believe their lives and futures are about. When we have been used to a dominant role, that can be very difficult. That process may grow more challenging as we grow older.

Another reality of our children “leaving” is coming to understand that they are unique individuals who may believe and act differently than we do. Even as we did things differently than our parents, so will our children. We may think we know a better way or even may think they are acting mistakenly yet because they have truly “left home,” our role is no longer to direct their paths but rather to be their biggest cheerleader, encourager, and friend. We may even be able to offer some counsel if they want it. We had to learn from our mistakes. We had to grow and mature in our marriages, jobs, and parenting skills; so will they. And they will! And we’ve learned to take our concerns for our children to the Lord in prayer and watch Him work, often in ways we might not expect.

Another adjustment is what I call the “less is not less” principle. As our adult children leave home, get jobs, acquire significant others in their lives, and have children, our obvious role in their lives lessens. The visits may be fewer, the contacts less frequent, the interaction more sporadic. If we as adult parents do not adjust to the reality of this “demotion” in roles or if we interpret this as a lack of love on our children’s part, we and they will be miserable. If our emotional well-being is dependent upon our children’s attention or well-being, or if we insist on continuing to be the center of their world, we will exacerbate tensions between us. Nadine and I often say, “We have a life.” And so do they. Relax, enjoy the times and contact that you DO have and make it positive and pleasant.

As with many things in life, learning the role of parents of adult children is a process. There will be ups and downs, and special needs and crises may come along which may hasten or slow the process. But God will help us adjust to their leaving – to a gradual reversal in roles, learning to accept our differences, and relaxing and enjoying our children when we can.

About The Author

Ken Groen

Ken Groen, a retired Open Bible minister, has served in ministry for 47 years, including 27 as senior pastor of two churches, including First Church of the Open Bible in Des Moines, Iowa. In addition he served for 13 years as Central Region Executive Director. He and his wife, Nadine, just celebrated 50 years of marriage.