Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Be safe about faith ...

Ok, here's a doozy ...

In my Top 10 List for Parents of Adult Children, point #4 is ...

Be safe about faith.

In Christian homes, for some reason, this topic is especially prickly.

Many of us love having little kiddos, who skip happily to church, sing little ditties of the faith, love learning about Jesus, carry their bibles around in cute little book covers and thus give their parents tangible "proof" that the faith is being passed along in good form.

Alas, those little ones grow up. And develop questions. Doubts. Their own opinions, darn them! They become oppositional at times. They no longer ask us what to believe. They start to sing their own songs. Church attendance becomes a battle zone. Jesus an argument.

This can be a scary time for parents for a whole host of reasons.

One of the most toxic sources of fear for Christian parents is the fear that our kids will walk away from our faith.

This fear can make us unsafe when our growing-up kids -- and grown up adult kids -- start to question core truths of the faith. Or when they decide to walk away for a season. Or when they read books or take college courses that push them to challenge views we have simply taken for granted as "true."

When this kind of fear meets normal, young adult faith development, a toxic kind of relationship-killing stew can start to bubble.

I want to spend a few posts here pondering what we can do to become safer people for our young adult kids to talk to about faith. Any part of faith: from doubts to fears to anger to new ideas to old ideas to wrong ideas to atheism to changing denominations to church attendance to ... you name it.

How can you and I become safe? 

How can we keep our fear at bay?

How can we trust our kids' faith development more than our own manipulation of outcomes?

How can we trust the goodness of God to play itself out in the lives of our young adults, rather than allow our anxiety to sit in the driver's seat?

FYI - I don't have the answers to any of these questions ... all I have is the guts to ask them.

More soon ...

 

Don't take it personally ...

Point #5 in my Top 10 List for Parenting Young Adults is: Don't take it personally ...

These were the exact words of my daughter during our conversation about what young adults wish their parents knew:

"Parents should not react to our decisions about how we choose to live as if they are a personal affront to them and to their choices. Just because we choose to do something differently than our parents did does NOT mean that we are judging them or looking down on their choices.

We are forming our own lives; forging our own paths and choosing our own journeys.

It is very stressful when we make decisions to then feel like our parents are stressed or put off because our decisions do not look like theirs did.

Parents need to not take things so personally."

This felt like both a gentle, but firm, slap in the face and a breath of fresh air at the same time.

Like a slap because I think I had been doing exactly this - looking at my young adult kids' decisions as if they were a direct assessment of my own - which they weren't.

I needed to stop taking their choices personally.

It felt like a breath of fresh air because ... I get to stop taking their choices personally!

What a relief!

I could just enjoy their choices and cheer them on without feeling diminished in any way.

Sounds dumb, like I should have known this ...

But I have never been a parent of young adults before.

I am flying blind.

Thank goodness my kids are kind enough to sit down with me and open my eyes a bit.

Don't take your kids' choices personally.

This will free them up ... and you, too.

What boundaries are ...

Back to point #6 in my Top 10 List for Parents of Adult Children -

Have healthy boundaries!

As parents and kids navigate the turbulent waters of kiddos becoming adults and parents of kiddos becoming parents of adults, the concept of developing healthy boundaries is right at the top of my "what keeps relationships healthy" list.

So, my last post was a teensy-tiny little rant about what boundaries AREN'T. They aren't an excuse to chop people out of your lives with no explanation, no warning, no conversation. That is something else ...

Boundaries, from the reading I did, ARE defined like this:

Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others.

Boundaries, for grown up folks, are about the establishment of acceptable behavior that we allow into our lives. Boundaries allow us to be ourselves separate from other people. Boundaries are especially important for young people, as they start to establish a life apart from their parents.

For young adults, this means, you start to get to decide, as you grow up, when and how and where you will engage with your family of origin. Hopefully, if all goes well, you will work hard to find fun and healthy ways to engage with your parents. But it is, in the end, your choice. Parents, it will go well with us if we realize this and accept it with grace and a touch of humor.

For parents, this also means, we get to decide, as our kids become young, self-sustaining (God, please!) young people, when and how and where we will engage with our kids. Hopefully, if all goes well, we will work hard to find fun and healthy ways to engage with our adult kids. In the end, it is our choice. Adult kids, it will go well with you if you realize this and accept it with grace and a touch of humor.

Young adults, you can decide how often you want to engage with your parents by phone, text, Skype or e-mail. They may try to break your boundaries, but ultimately, you get to decide. Stick to your guns! Your parents will - eventually - learn.

You can decide how much of your life you want to share with your parents. Be wise here. If you don't want advice on certain issues, you may want to, as my grandpa used to say, "breast your cards."

Young adults, you can decide how you want to engage family vacations, holidays, meals, gatherings, etc. If these gatherings are really hard, toxic, abusive or flat out awful, think of creative and loving ways to limit your exposure.

Parents, you can decide how often you want to engage your adult kids in all the various forms of communication. A good idea, however? Ask them what works for them. They have busy, full, hopefully productive lives and they can't always chat with us at our convenience.

We get to decide how much of our lives we want to share with our adult kids. A hint? They are probably way less interested than we think ...

Parents, we can decide how we want to do vacations, holidays, meals, gatherings, etc. But we can't always expect our adult kids to show up like they used to when they lived at home with us. Be flexible! Be festive! Be fun! If plans fall through, do something on your own. Don't make your kids feel like they are your only recourse for a good time. Too. Much. Pressure.

And parents - if your adult kids create a toxic environment, it is fully within your parental rights to creatively and lovingly think of ways to limit exposure.

Boundaries are hard.

Boundaries demand gentle, firm, truthful conversation.

Boundaries call for grace.

But boundaries make for strong families, like fences make for great neighbors.

Healthy Boundaries ...

Moving on to point #6 in my Top 10 List for Parents of Adult Kids ...

Have healthy boundaries.

Let me first say a word about what boundaries are NOT.

Boundaries are NOT an excuse for choosing never to see your kids again; for cutting them out of your life.

Boundaries are NOT an excuse for cutting your parents out of your life forever without breathing a word to them about why.

These kinds of stories - of parents doing this to kids, and kids doing this to parents - are passive-aggressive forms of emotional abuse.

In coming posts, I will talk about what healthy boundaries are and what they might look like in families.

But I want to first say, unequivocally, that this kind of familial "ghosting" (google it) that some children and parents do to each other is - in almost every case - the height of childishness.

I've seen way too many devastated parents, and a few too many heartbroken children, to not get this off my chest.

Next post: What do I mean by "healthy boundaries?"

Until then, call your mom. :)