Children: Letting Go

Straight Talk

The Question

I have a son 21 and he recently expressed to me that he would like to go to California. He has never been out on his own and he really does not have a clear plan. He and I go to church together every Sunday and I will miss him. He tells me this is something he feels he has to do; I don’t get it and I am so worried about him going. He says there is nothing I can say or do that will change his mind. What can I do?

SC from Warren, Michigan

The Answer
Part 1: Letting Go
Part 2: Protection strategies

Letting Go (Part 1)

I think the first thing to ask yourself is: what’s really going on? Is this a case of you as a mother having difficulty letting go of an adult son? That would not be an uncommon problem. Parents invest so much time and emotional energy in raising their children sometimes it is hard to let the little birds fly off.

There is another possibility also but I will handle that in the second part. For now let’s talk about releasing children. Your son is 21 so he is of legal age and of course you cannot stop him (which is probably why this is so scary). Up until now you’ve had some degree of influence over him and could guide him in decisions. You can still act as a guide in his life if you do it wisely.

First, you have to dig deep inside yourself and really release him to the Lord. For these last 21 years you have had temporary custody only. That’s God’s plan for protection and safety so our children will be prepared and mature when it’s time to leave the nest. Perhaps you feel he is not fully prepared or fully mature (who is at 21?) but it may be time anyhow.

Releasing a child is an adjustment. I remember how hard it was for me when I allowed my first daughter to have no curfew. I didn’t feel comfortable going to bed while she was still out. It felt somehow disturbing—just not right. But I went through it and finally was able to trust her in God’s hands. When it was time to do the same thing for my second daughter it was a piece of cake.

We can justify why it is not quite time to let our children go but we need to own up to the fact that the problem is frequently in us. There is great freedom in release. Our children usually sense it, which releases them to consider us friends—and that opens a new door to continued positive influence in their lives.

Protection strategies (Part 2)

Now let’s consider the second possibility. Your son may be getting ready to embark on a perilous journey that is not for his good at all. This may be a plot of the enemy and not a plan of God. Perhaps you sense it and that inclination is from God.

Your son tells you he has no clear plan but that seems pretty hard to believe. I think he has a better idea of why he wants to go and what he plans to do than he is sharing with you. Children don’t usually tell parents everything—for sure they don’t usually share things they think parents will disapprove. (That’s why becoming their friend in adulthood has such great advantage. You learn more!)

As a mother you have clout before the throne of grace. You can pray and that will affect your son’s plans and the ultimate outcome. Whether or not it is a good idea to go to California, God can work it for good. That’s your prayer strategy. You can pray very specifically about every leg of the journey. “Lord, thwart my son’s plan if this is not of you. Bring divine appointments. Send someone into his life who he will listen to who has your wisdom. Protect him from any plan of the enemy. Etc. Etc. Etc.”

I wouldn’t try to talk him out of it. I would tell him you trust his judgment and you are going to be praying for the very best. Ask him to join you in prayer, especially before he leaves. If he goes, whenever he calls home, pray with him over the phone. Don’t nag. Make him enjoy talking to you by being encouraging and interested. Then go back to prayer! If California does not work out he will feel much more comfortable returning home to one of his closest friends: YOU!

If this is a question of you needing to release your son, you will get through it. If it is a question of your son trying to fly before his wings are strong enough he will get through it. Trust that Father God is the best parent of you both.