When You Have Done All You Can Do
By Catherine Hickem, L.C.S.W.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).
Parenting adult children is one of the most interesting and challenging experiences the journey of life hands us. It can bring out the best and worst of us at any given moment. It is also one of those roles and times where we can feel absolutely helpless.
We walk a fine line when we parent adult children. We have taught our children our values and faith, trusting they will embrace the principles on which we have built our lives and our family. When our adult children choose to walk a different path, we are left scratching our heads, wondering what went wrong.
We also watch our adult children face difficulties that will have great impact on their lives. Many times it is through no fault of their own that their lives have turned upside down. Nevertheless, they have to deal with the drastic changes that have come their way.
Most importantly, we can find ourselves scared because we feel completely helpless to rescue, diminish, or eliminate the pain or problem our children are facing. There are events our adult children may encounter that are simply outside our ability to impact. Most of the time, it would be inappropriate for us to intervene; entry into their crisis could create barriers, undermine confidence, and insult our adult children.
So what is a parent of an adult child to do when it seems there is nothing they can do?
I realize that is easier said than done.
But it is the best thing we can do, for them and for us.
When we find ourselves in that helpless space, reaching out honestly before God and asking Him to intervene is the best gift we can give our children. It helps us remember that He can go into areas of our children’s lives we should not tread. It also releases us from having to figure out answers to questions we may not know. Most significantly, it models for our children our willingness to trust God with them.
When a parent is watching their adult child struggle with an addiction, experience a divorce, or abandon their faith, the experience will be as much a test for them as it is for their children. They will react or respond. If they react, many aspects of their humanity will reveal themselves in the situation. If they respond, it means they have thought out the possibilities and been intentional in their actions. Part of that response is to embrace the God who created their child.
I am relatively new to parenting an adult child. I have only been at it for seven years. I am learning that God can speak to my children’s hearts in a manner which is far more effective than them hearing my voice. I can get impatient when I don’t think they are paying attention and it is tempting to want to help God do His job. But the bottom line is God does not need my help. He wants me to stay faithful and talk to Him about them but He does not want me to talk to them for Him.
One of the reasons God allowed us to become parents is to strengthen our relationship with Him. The sooner we turn our adult kids over to Him, the better our relationship with Him and our adult children will be. He will give us the wisdom to know when to speak, what to say, what not to say, and when to step out of the way so our children can see Him work. The more we do it, the easier it will become.