I remember my jump from high school to college. Every step prior to that one was easy: seventh grade became eighth, tenth grade became eleventh. But something happens after twelfth grade….and it certainly isn’t just thirteenth grade. It’s a big step—a HUGE step—and one the demands that we as parents guide and direct our children in a way that perhaps we have not had to do before. In years past, the biggest challenge was picking out the right backpack. This year? Determining what school to go to and what classes to take so they don’t make a mess of their entire life.
Pressure? Yeah…just a little.
Here is a handful of simple things we as parents can do to help our students in a way that keeps them encouraged and assured of our support.
1. Pray, and let them know you’re doing it.
Have you ever been through a tough time and had someone approach you, put their hand on your shoulder, look you in the eye and say, “I’m praying for you”? You remember because it impacted your life. Knowing they took time out of their day to approach our Creator with a request on your behalf often gives us that needed a boost to carry on. In Colossians 1:9, Paul communicates to the people at Colossae that he was praying for them specifically. He writes:
“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”
If you read Paul’s writings, it becomes clear that prayer was important to him as was letting the people know he was lifting them up in prayer. There’s really two ways to let your young person know you are praying for them. First, tell them specifically why you prayed for them and what the request was on their behalf. Prayer moves the heart of God but it also gives the opportunity to express the heart you have for your child to your child. They need to hear it. They need to know dad and mom recognize the specific struggles and are concerned about them enough to present them before God. Second, pray with your child about these changes in their lives. Pray in their presence. Few things strengthen a family’s bond like praying together. Let them hear you express your heart to God on their behalf.
Prayer moves the heart of God but it also gives the opportunity to express the heart you have for your child to your child.
2. Help them navigate…but don’t do everything for them.
Children need to learn to make decisions for themselves without us rushing in to save them every time. Obviously, there are the “my-kid-just-ran-into-the-street” kind of moments where we don’t really care about their opinion or feelings on the matter—we’re coming in for the rescue, but in this phase of their lives, they need to begin making choices alone. However, that doesn’t mean we leave them completely stranded.
“For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 24:6).
One of the biggest ways you can help your child navigate these new waters is by teaching them how to seek out godly counsel. Most likely the realization has already set in—the fact that you will not always be around to guide your child. But there is a distinct blessing from God in the multitude of wise counsel at their fingertips. Teach them how to seek these people out when they are searching for answers. It helps them immensely while allowing them to stand on their own two feet.
3. Continue spiritually equipping
You’ll notice I say “continue” because this should have been something that we’ve been doing for years. Your young person, no matter if they were the in public school, private school or home-schooled, is stepping into the world that wants to destroy them. Yes, I know. Not exactly the positive outlook on life you maybe were expecting from a blog post, but it is nonetheless true. And we know this from Scripture….
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Ok. So the Bible uses the word “devour”. Perhaps I should have used that instead of “destroy” but regardless, it doesn’t exactly paint a very rosy picture of what awaits our children. But the good news is that God has already overcome this evil…all we have to do is equip ourselves properly and stand firm.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).
Continually check in with your child about their spiritual temperature. Do they have a heart for God? Are they seeking Him daily? Are they passionate about loving Him and serving others? One of the gravest dangers is when a parent assumes their child is a spiritual giant merely because they’ve attended church all their life. Instead of making assumptions about where your student is, ask. Pray…and do a little bit of prying. As much as they may resist and act like to some degree you are invading their space, they know deep down it is a sincere communication of love.
Be involved. This next stage is just a much of a chapter in your own life as it is theirs. And while they may not always live under your roof, as long as they know you are praying for them, willing to offer help in time of need, and genuinely interested in their spiritual walk, they will always know the door to your home is open.