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GFK047: Two principles for loving and living with adult children

Nov 18, 2023God Fearing Kids Podcast

Listen to Two principles for loving and living with your adult kids here

Picture of podcast co-hosts Carey Green & Mindi Green, hugging.

HOSTS: Carey & Mindi Green

[02:47] Principle #1: Keeping relationships healthy and open
[12:53] Rebuilding strained relationships with adult children
[19:38] Trusting God’s Spirit to Transform Hearts

Transcript follows (not corrected)

Importance of Giving Advice to Adult Children

[0:00] Just because it’s hard to do, and there’s a different dynamic there, it doesn’t mean we just throw it out and say, don’t ever give your child advice when they’re an adult.
What we need to do is we need to depend more heavily on the Lord in prayer, God please, give me wisdom and discernment.
I really feel like I need to talk to my adult son about this situation.
Show me what I should say, show me what I should not say, and God will be very pleased.

[0:25] Music.

[0:49] And I am Kerry. And we happen to be parents. That’s a good thing. You wouldn’t want people who aren’t parents telling you stuff about parenting. Definitely not.
Yeah, and I don’t know how many of you even know the whole story.
We have five kids, and all of them are adults now.
From 20 years old all the way up to 32 years. Yeah, and so they’re in varying stages of adulthood.
The 20-year-old obviously is still younger, and she is going to school.
And then the oldest of those has four boys of his own, has been married for 10 years now.
11. And we have two others that are married, and then one other that is not.
So we have a wide spectrum of experience and circumstances going on there, which is very relevant to our topic for today.

Topic 1: General principles for relating to adult kids

[1:31] Because I want to talk to you about, I guess, two different topics.
The first is just general principles for relating to your adult children.

[1:40] It’s not an easy thing, but it can be a simple thing if we follow the guidelines that God gives us for Christian relationships, just generally speaking.
And we’re gonna talk about some of that today. And then the second topic is if you find yourself in a place where, I don’t know, there’s a lot of ways we could describe this, but where you’re playing catch up with your adult kids because maybe you didn’t follow God’s rules and guidelines when they were younger, or there’s a tension that exists between you and your adult kids.
Hopefully we’ll have some things that are helpful for you in this episode as well.
So Mindy, let’s start with that first topic of just general principles for relating to adult kids.
Where do you think you would begin as you talk to someone over a coffee about their adult children.
Well, I think I would want to encourage us as parents, don’t feel bad that you still care very strongly for your children and for what’s going on in their life.
And you moms, especially, that are listening, don’t feel bad that it’s hard for them to leave and that you’re struggling with not raising them anymore.

Importance of care and prayer for adult children

[2:47] I mean, that’s definitely what I’ve gone through and what I still am going through.
So our care for them is a beautiful gift from the Lord. the energy and the time we spent caring for them physically when they’re in the home, we need to replace it with praying for them.

[3:03] Yeah, I would say it would be concerning if you didn’t have that care for your kids who are adults.
That means either you’re thinking too much like the world, well, they’re adults now, it’s up to them, I did my job.
That’s not a Christian attitude to begin with, but secondly, it’s just not a very thoughtful parent who’s saying those kinds of things because our adult kids are still our kids.
We still love them. We wanna see good happening in their lives.
And we still have a place in their life.
That’s right. We have said often that you never stop being a parent and it doesn’t look the same, obviously, when your kids are adults, but you’re still a parent.
Yeah, and so I’d love your emphasis on prayer. I think that should not be underestimated.
We need to be thinking specifically about the needs of each of our kids and the stage they’re at in life and lifting them to the Father, because we’ve been down that road.

Understanding the challenges and difficulties they face

[3:56] We know some of the experience that they’re going through. We know the challenges.
We know the worries they’re gonna face and the difficulties, and we have a good basis from which to pray good and necessary prayers, because we’ve been there.

[4:10] Right, exactly. And we have experienced the process of growth in our younger 20s and 30s, and so we know a lot of what they are going through or will be going through.
So we have a great foundation, a great starting point in knowing how to pray for our children. That’s right.
And so maybe to wrap up this section about prayer, prayer is powerful.
It does have an effect. So please don’t underestimate that and approach your relationship with your adult children through a lens of constant prayer.

[4:41] I think another thing that we should think of is you’re always approaching them with care.
We might say with love.
So it’s convenient we have prayer and we have care. maybe we can remember that well.
Our approach to our adult children should always be one of care for them and care for their situation.

Encouragement and avoiding criticism in their new endeavors

[5:00] And we have to be careful because sometimes being the parent that can motivate us toward criticism or instruction or control of the circumstance, which none of that is good to express toward your child, especially if you tend to be that sort of a personality anyway, it can just seem overbearing to an adult child.
And so it’s good for us to remember, in light of that, that our children, they’re excited to leave the home and get started with their life and their responsibility setting up the house.
Maybe they’re newly married, starting their little family. I mean, they’re looking ahead and they’re excited about living life and doing it themselves. Yeah, and I think it’s an appropriate image to say they are spreading their wings, like that bird that’s going out of the nest.
I mean, of course, as adults, they’re older than we picture a little bird being when it learns to fly, it’s the same sort of thing. They’re trying out their new adulthood and their competence and their skill and we need to give them the space to do that.
Yeah, and during that time, our kids need our encouragement more than anything.

[6:03] And to point out the things that they’re doing well so that their wings, so to speak, will be strengthened and they can fly better and higher, so to speak.
Yeah, that’s good, carrying through encouragement.
I like that.

[6:15] Yeah, and I think, especially for moms, we’re used to instructing our children, our daughters, let’s say, in how to make a meal in the kitchen when we’re trying to teach them.
And so fast forward to your daughter being grown, married, having her own home, and they invite you over for dinner, and you go in the kitchen to help her, you might be tempted to say, why don’t you do it this way or that way?
And instead, try really hard to encourage your daughter.
I love it how you did that. You make delicious food, or the way you decorated your home is beautiful.
Just show me what I can do, how I can help.
So try in the Lord’s strength to bring encouragement instead of suggestion or criticism.

Allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them

[6:58] Yeah, because many times to an adult child who is trying to spread their wings, so to speak, your efforts that help as well-intentioned as it may be, will come across as criticism, because they’re trying to get their feet under them. They need you to encourage, they need you to tell them they’re doing a good job as they’re trying these new things.
As they get more capable, it’ll be obvious they’re doing a good job because they really are.
For me, I’ve noticed when my children do things differently than what I would do, or what I even would teach them, And I’m not talking foundational biblical teaching, I’m just talking maybe preferences of things.

[7:39] I would have a tendency to want to say something and correct it, or, you know, are you sure you want that? But the Lord would just remind me, let them spread their wings and find ways to encourage them.
Which may mean letting them make some mistakes. Yeah, or doing things different than you would do it.
Yeah, which may not be a right or wrong issue. Right.
But when I say mistakes, I mean, they may need to make some bad decisions to learn things.

Speaking the truth in love when necessary

[8:07] And of course, if we see a life-altering or dangerous decision on the horizon that we think they’re going toward, we should do our next principle, which is to speak the truth in love.

[8:20] We should be willing to step in and caution and guide both from our experience and from from our wisdom and the word of God.
Not be afraid to do that, but remember that descriptor, in love, we wanna come across very concerned about their well-being, their welfare, the possible consequences, and talk about it in a non-threatening way if we can, where we think the best of them.
I know that you are trying to make the best decision, and I know it’s a hard decision, but here’s what I’m thinking because of my experience.
I did something similar and this happened. You know, we can bring up examples to be helpful.
Yeah, that’s good.
And that also makes me think that during that time, we really wanna be asking God for wisdom.
And scripture tells us to ask for wisdom and he will give it freely.
Yes, that’s in James chapter one. It says, if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all.
So what a promise. If we ask the God of creation for wisdom.

[9:20] He promises to give it. So yeah, let’s ask for wisdom.
God wants to help us have good relationships with our adult children. And especially if you had good relationships when you were raising them, it’s going to be hard with all the different transition, and especially when your son marries his wife, that whole dynamic of how do you bring in the daughter-in-law and have good relationship and peace there. So we need wisdom all the time.
Yes, we do. We need to be praying about those kinds of things.
So we’ve talked about praying for them, caring for them.

Giving advice

[9:56] Speaking the truth in love, which I might add to the speech the truth and love part, You often hear the advice and you even may have said it yourself Don’t give your adult kids advice unless they ask for it, We disagree with that if you’re applying this speak the truth and love thing with wisdom, right? Those two go together, Yeah There’s plenty of times you don’t want to give advice Because it’s not a circumstance where there’s a massive problem if they don’t do it the way you’re thinking they should should.
I’m glad you brought that up because I don’t think that that is the way God thinks about it.
He wants us to encourage one another in the Lord. He wants us to admonish one another in the Lord and admonishing involves giving advice.
You know, I don’t think son or daughter that what you are doing is best.
I think God would want you to do this.
We as believers need to do that for one another. And so why are we going to not care for our children in that way?
Iron sharpens iron. God wants to use us to sharpen the spiritual growth of our children’s hearts.
And so just because it’s hard to do, and there’s a different dynamic there, it doesn’t mean we just throw it out and say, don’t ever give your child advice when they’re an adult.

[11:11] What we need to do is we need to depend more heavily on the Lord in prayer, God, please give me wisdom and discernment. I really feel like I need to talk to my adult son about this situation.
Me what I should say, show me what I should not say, and God will be very pleased that we’re depending on him. That’s what he wants. He wants us to walk by faith.
He doesn’t want us to say, nope, I’m not gonna say anything, because I can’t talk to my adult kids. Everybody tells me that. Yeah, yeah.

Pursuing adult children as treasured blessings

[11:38] Well, I love the way you described that. So we were in the process of summarizing what we’ve talked about.
There was prayer, and then care, and speaking the truth in love, asking God for wisdom.

[11:49] And the next thing that we wanted to talk about in relating with your adult children is pursue them as a friend. Pursue them as your treasured blessing that the Lord gave you.
Keep the value of that relationship high. Your children need to know that you love them.
They want to hear what you think about them. They want to know that you want to spend time with them.
And so pursue them.
Ask the Lord for ideas of how to do that.
Talk to them regularly on the phone, maybe. Take them on dates, maybe.
I’m over for dinner, have game nights if you’re able to, if you live in the same town.
God will give you ideas about that, but just make sure you’re pursuing them.
Whatever that means in your scenario, make sure you are telling your child by your words and your actions that they still mean a lot to you.
And there are ways to do that with God’s wisdom that don’t feel smothering and don’t feel intrusive, you know, all those negative words that you could hear an adult child saying about a parent that they feel is controlling.
So again, we need to ask God’s wisdom in that as well.

No matter how old your children become, or how capable or competent they become, they still need your prayer and encouragement. Those two things have the greatest impact in their lives in the context of an ongoing, healthy relationshipo.

Rebuilding strained relationships with adult children

[12:53] I think it’d be good if we move on to that other section where parents already have either a distant or strained relationship with their adult children.
And of course, all these principles we’ve talked about apply and they are good places to maybe go back and rebuild some habits of your own if you haven’t established those already.
But you’re kind of coming into a situation that’s already damaged in a way.
It’s already not optimal. Maybe that’s a better way to say it.
So coming into that, I think, not to beat a dead horse, but to reemphasize prayer is vital in this.
You just really need the Lord’s wisdom in how to rebuild bridges if bridges have been burned, in how to establish a good connection if there hasn’t been one.
Because there’s already a resistance, perhaps there’s already a sense of hurt or neglect or wishing something had been different on the part of the adult child that you’re gonna have to learn how to overcome as a parent.
And that begins with prayer, and it begins also with humility.
And many times we as parents might not have any clue why our child is resisting us, or doing the silent treatment, or things just seem tense.
I think that’s a good indicator that there’s some hurt that might be going on.

[14:11] And so, once again, we as parents need to go to prayer. Lord, show me, give me discernment of what is going on.
Help me to understand what my child needs from me and show me any areas that I have hurt them.

[14:26] And I think that’s so very important. It makes me think of James 5, 16, which talks about, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.
So that’s talking about the prayer.
Pray for your child. Let’s say your daughter isn’t talking to you and you really don’t know why.
Start praying for her and then ask the Lord, is there anything I need to confess to her?
Have I hurt her, offended her in any way? so that you can go to her and hopefully the healing will start coming.
Yeah, yeah. There’s a humility that’s just all throughout this sort of an approach.
And it may require an honest conversation where you’re coming not in a defensive way or an accusatory way, but you’re just coming in a concerned demeanor, saying, I sense there’s a distance between us and it seems maybe I’ve hurt you in some way or I’ve offended you or your husband or whoever.
And I really want to know what’s between us because I want to make it right.
I want to confess anything that I’ve done wrong and I want to ask for your forgiveness.
You come in that humble posture and it’s hard for people to be antagonistic or angry towards you when you come in a humble posture.
Proverbs 15, one says a soft answer, some translations say a gentle answer, turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
So you want to come gently, you want to come softly so that you can turn away any anger that’s there or any resentment, those sorts of things.

[15:56] In some situations that y’all might be facing, it could take a long time for healing to come.
But like Keri said earlier, these kinds of relationships can be hard and complicated, but the way we handle them is simple.
We need to realize that just simply obeying scripture is what we need to be doing.
God tells us how to love one another. He tells us how to pursue one another in confession and encouragement and praying for one another.
So just keep doing that.
If your child doesn’t respond to you, then go back to your knees praying for them and.

[16:31] Asking the Lord, what should you do?
What kind of acts of love can I do for my child?
There might be times when God is going to tell you, I want you to be patient.
I want you to wait and just keep trusting me. I know it’s a very painful thing where years go by before you have reconciliation with your child.
But that does not mean that you’re doing it wrong, so to speak.
Keep on trusting the Lord. Keep on praying for your child, loving them, caring for them, confessing your sins to them.
Yeah. Every well-oiled machine, so to speak, and in this case, we’re talking about a relationship.

[17:10] Takes time to get that way and musicians become expert musicians through lots of practice and sore fingers and all kinds of stuff same thing with carpenters same thing with teachers you develop skill over time and if this relationship is broken you’re going to have to develop the skill on your side to mend those wounds and heal those hurts and it’s going to take time and it’s also going to take them time on their side to get used to this new relationship dynamic because if they’ve known you as hurtful in the past and you’re coming with a humble spirit now, it’s going to take them time to build trust. It’s going to take time for them to really feel like they can take a gamble, so to speak, on this relationship. And let’s say you being a Christian parent are very concerned about some of the sinful habits that your child is involved in.
Pray about those things. Pray that the Lord will work on their heart. But the moment your child opens the door to relationship with you, don’t start hounding them on their sin.

[18:10] Continue to pray and ask the Lord, when should you talk to them? How should you talk to them?
And if they’re not walking with the Lord at the time, your child needs to feel love from you first and to feel that you are approachable, that they can talk to you about things before they’re even ready to hear about changing their behavior in something.
Yes, God’s word says it’s his kindness that leads us to repentance. And the same applies to human relationships. Often we have to be able to be a long-suffering, patient lover of the person.

[18:45] In order to see a heart that’s ready to hear about things like that. And oftentimes God, through spirit, brings about that change of heart on their side through the power of your love, through the power of you just being there in spite of their bad behavior, so to speak.
Yeah, that is so good. I’ve known of parents who have had children that have walked away from good relationship with them and walked away from the Lord, and they found support in other parents who’ve struggled with that. And they come together and they pray regularly.
I think that’s a wonderful step of faith in a way to honor the Lord and trusting Him.
And that might be something that you parents out there listening might want to do.
And others who have same situations to come together regularly, we’re going to pray for our children. We’re going to fight for them on the spiritual level that they will come back to the Lord, that they’ll come back to us in good relationship.

Trusting God’s Spirit to Transform Hearts

[19:38] And that is the best thing that you can do, really, in all these situations, because if there is a hard heart that needs to be made soft, God’s Spirit is going to do that.
If there is a bitterness that has to be overcome, who’s going to overcome it?
God’s Spirit.
If there’s unforgiveness that needs to be dealt with, who’s gonna deal with that? God’s spirit.
So we need to wage war in this area the way that God wages war, and that’s on a spiritual level.
You know, as parents, we can often feel like I got to do something about this. I need to get in there and fix this. And when it comes to these kind of things, it’s not us who is supposed to do the fixing. It’s God. Our doing can come through prayer. Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Now, as we wrap up here, let me say that obviously there are no connect the dots on this that are perfect. And there’s no one plus two equals three on things like this. Every situation is different.
Every dynamic is gonna vary because of personalities and the history and all of those things. But I think the general principles we’ve laid out are gonna be principles that will serve you well, because they come from God’s word and they come from God’s heart. And remember, he is a relational God. He cares about relationships and he’s instructed us with his wisdom to build good relationships. And so we follow what he’s saying and be patient and consistent and humble.

Patience and Consistency in Prayer for Children’s Lives

[20:58] Praying all the time. He’s going to do work. It may take longer than we think and it may not come about in the form we think it should, but He is good and He will do His work. That is so well said, so encouraging, and I just encourage you parents, be patient. I think probably we get tripped up the most when things are taking too long. So let’s honor our God who we believe to be the ruler of this world and the ruler of our lives by being patient and waiting on Him, like He asks us to. Amen. Let me just pray for us.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your encouragement and commands to us through Your Word, and that You tell us what is best for us, and You command us to do what is best. I thank You, Father, for Your abounding grace to help us obey You and to please You. And I ask, Father, that You will help all parents who are listening to be faithful in our obedience to You and spending time reading Your word and praying and trusting You in our lives. I ask Lord, that those parents who are struggling with making their quiet times a regular thing, I pray Lord that You will just bring help through Your Holy Spirit, conviction through Your Holy Spirit to finally just make it happen to where it’s a consistent thing. And then I ask, Lord, for those parents who want to encourage their children to have their quiet times regularly, that You will give them wisdom and discernment of how to approach it with their kids, for it to be a positive situation where the kids are not feeling criticized or condemned, but they’re seeing it as how important it really is that they grow to learn. In Jesus’ name, we pray, amen.