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Scared to launch your child into the “real world”?

Child going to college
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If you’re the parent of an older teen or young adult, the thought of launching your child into the world can be frightening; particularly if they have shown very few signs that they will be able to handle “real life” once they leave your care. You may even find yourself thinking, “What will happen when this child goes to college?” or “My child is getting their first job. Do they even know what a budget looks like?!” or even, “My child has no idea how the real world works!”

When feeling this way, parents often respond one of two ways: 

  1. They may throw their hands up in exasperation (maybe even subconsciously hoping their child will “fail”).
  2. They anxiously go “all in” with lectures and consequences intended to motivate their child. 

I have found that both ends of the spectrum are equally unhelpful and can create large relational craters. This is not how you envisioned sending your child off to college or launching your child into the “real world”.

Simply stated: It’s tough to parent effectively if managing your own hurt or fear is the main goal.  

Whether giving up or going “all in,” parents often make their kids’ behavior the main issue, when in actuality, they haven’t dealt with their own baggage. Ask yourself: What’s going on inside of me? What am I projecting onto my child?

To the exasperated, “hands-off” parent…

You may be thinking “I’d have some confidence in you, teen, if you gave me ONE stinking thing to be confident about. Forget it, do what you want! I’m done!” Those words, believe it or not, are more about you than about your child. You have high expectations, which is good! However, your expectations may be unrealistic at the moment, and so a setup for frustration and failure. 

Giving up is not the answer. Your child needs you, she really does. But she needs you to support her differently. She needs to experience you as engaged, but calm. She needs to hear you laugh at yourself, not her. She needs the same affirmations you gave her 10 years ago when she was sweeter, cuter, and funnier. 

A starting point for a conversation with your child if you’re the “hands-off” parent

Consider finding a phrase or two from below that resonates with your heart:

“My daughter, I have done much to harm our relationship. I never set out to hurt you so much, but I can tell that I have. I have worried, and cried. I have set unrealistic expectations and fearfully interrogated you, not because I don’t love you, but because I do. But that’s not the message you got from me, I know. 

I have attempted to control things that aren’t mine to control. I’ve treated you like you were 6 for the last 12 years. I have focused so much on ‘fixing’ you, that I lost focus on who you are. Will you forgive me? I need to re-evaluate my role in your life. I am tempted to give up, because that’s the easiest way to stop controlling you. Perhaps I’m the one that is out of control? That’s a new thought I’ll need to ponder. I love you, and I want you to know that.” 

Fear, despair, and criticism are poison. But confidence, hope, and compassion are huge gifts to our kids.

To the anxious “cramming” parent…

For the parent who is frantically trying to teach your child all the things before they leave for college into a crash course: Stop it! You can’t regain what’s lost in a few strong lectures. But you do have an opportunity to encourage and express confidence in your child as they head off to college or into the real world. 

  • He knows he needs to work more and play less. 
  • He knows he doesn’t know how to manage his money. 
  • He knows he’s a slob. 
  • He knows he’s chosen poor friends. 
  • He knows he’s disrespectful. 

He knows. He knows. He knows, because he has listened to you. You have told him.

A starting point for a conversation with your child if you’re the “cramming” parent

Consider finding a phrase or two from below that resonates with your heart:

“I believe in your ability to make your choices and accept the consequences that life has to teach. I have been harsh and critical and unfair. I have let fear grip me. I have given you a message that you are a disappointment to me, often in an attempt to control you and get the behaviors I wanted to see. I can see that you have disconnected from me and I don’t really blame you. I wouldn’t want to be treated that way. I need you to know that I love you and am proud of who you are right now.”

This may be tough for you to hear. And believe me, I get it. I write as a recovering, well-intentioned controller. I know the my-way-or-the-highway mentality. Would you be willing to receive God’s grace for you? It is difficult to give to your kids that which you struggle to receive for yourself.

Hear the words of God to you:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1a)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

My prayer is that you can receive these words from scripture deep into your heart. That you would accept these verses for yourself from the God who loves you. That you would “breathe in His grace” for you and your family right now so you can breathe it out to your child.

child going to college

A final word…

Fear, despair, and criticism are poison. But confidence, hope, and compassion are huge gifts to our kids. Right now, you may be sending your child off to college, job training, military, technical school, a full time job, their own apartment, or launching them into the world some other way. This time together can be a pivotal point to turn towards each other or possibly cause a deep chasm between you. 

Don’t give up hope! 

Pray for your child. Encourage your child. Their route may not be the one you would have picked, but they will learn and grow as you support and encourage them.  

Apply It Now:

  • In what ways have you given up on your child? Or are you still attempting to cram into him the things you fear he doesn’t yet understand?
  • How could you affirm her for where she is growing and becoming more responsible? For what she is vs. what she is not?

Finally, as teens get older, the “stakes” get higher for parents. This tip touches the beginning points of what you can do. But if you would like more in-depth help and coaching around this topic, please contact us about coaching.


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Chad Hayenga
Chad Hayenga
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