What Will Your Child Say at Age 18?

teen girl - "Wow, my parents are so..."

It’s scary to ask your 18-year-old daughter to jot a few words about how she was impacted by her parents. But I did it.

Shelbi leaves for college in a week or so and we are so excited for her. As I write this with tears rolling down my cheeks I can’t fully discern the spectrum of emotions that overflow from somewhere deep inside. I only know that since having kids, time has moved at an alarmingly fast pace when I think about it in terms of years, yet there were days that seemed as if they would never end! I mean, how much Barney and Veggie Tales can a person endure before being permanently scarred?

As our oldest child, Shelbi taught us a lot as we experimented at being parents. From changing her diapers to dropping her off at the wrong bus stop as a first grader to teaching her to drive on Iowa backroads, everything was a growing experience on how to (and how not to) do parenting! As the recipient/veteran of our successes and struggles, I asked Shelbi if she would help give some perspective to all of us as parents before she leaves for college at the end of the month. Here are a couple topics and pointers that stood out for her.

Hayenga family

Carma, Shelbi, and Chad Hayenga

Shelbi writes, “It isn’t until you reach the mountaintop that you can more clearly see the journey. As I am about to depart for college I am able to reflect on the twists and turns, the slopes and paths that led me to and shaped who I am today. I know that I owe everything to God and so much to my parents. There are some key areas in which my parents have helped me grow and develop into an (hopefully) independent and responsible young person.”

Advice to Parents from 18-year-old Shelbi:

Spiritually: My parents always took time to encourage spiritual growth as a family and individually.

  • Take time to do devotionals and pray as a family. In elementary school we read a devotional called Sticky Situations ten minutes before the bus arrived. This gave me a chance to focus on God before going to school. As I grew, devotions occurred during the evenings and helped our family grow deeper together.
  • Encourage personal growth. Although my parents made it a priority to read the Bible as a family, they always emphasized the importance of doing so on my own. Occasionally, my dad would ask me questions like, “What are you reading in the Bible now?” Or “How are you growing in your faith?” It was funny how he always seemed to ask when I was struggling but these questions always challenged me to re-evaluate my relationship with God. Now as I go to college, it’s important to me to stay in God’s Word even if my parents aren’t there to remind me.

Academically: I knew my parents wanted what was best for me. They were a rock for me through the stresses and demands of school.

  • Encourage your child. My parents always encouraged me to put my best efforts into everything I did. They told me they were proud of me no matter what. They were encouraging whether I got an A on a test or made an embarrassing class presentation.
  • Don’t take responsibility that’s not yours. I often had times of procrastination during high school. Although I could tell my parents sometimes worried and just wanted me to get that project or essay done, they allowed me to make decisions and suffer the consequences. I quickly learned by experience how to best handle the workload.
  • Pray for your child. A student feels a lot of pressures and demands – from peers, teachers, academics, and family. Most mornings, my parents asked what I needed prayer for that day. It was comforting to know they were praying on my behalf without trying to fix my problems for me.

I know the journey is far from over but I look forward to moving ahead with my parents’ unconditional love and support.

teen parent advice pin

Apply It Now:

  1. Which one of these five action points do your kids most need from you?
  2. In what specific ways might you begin to apply this in your family’s daily life?

Want help implementing these principles with your family? Check out our coaching options!

[Photo Credits: Jani Bryson | iStockphoto.com and the Hayenga family]



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