Early into my daughter’s freshman semester, she called me in tears. “What if I don’t have what it takes?” she asked. She wasn’t just referring to managing her coarse load, though that proved a sufficiently stressful concern. But she was also grappling with what it meant to become an adult. While the university provided something of a springboard, she still felt the stakes were high. She knew she needed to pass the test to pass the class to earn the degree with the GPA needed to survive in today’s often volatile job market.
Many college students wrestle with similar, and at times, debilitating emotions. This inner angst can do more than steal their sleep, concentration, and effectiveness. It can also hinder them from embracing healthy risk. They might even forsake following God’s will for that which feels safest, easiest, or seems to come with guarantees.
Their self-protection tendencies can prevent them from fully experiencing the beyond-expectation life Christ promised. But we can help them shift their perspective, encouraging them to see every setback and mistake as a learning opportunity. In God’s hands, every apparent failure can lead to incredible growth and maturity our kids can’t develop any other way.
2. You can be an adult and still ask for help.
Sometimes we, as a culture, mistake independence for maturity. Our kids can hold this same erroneous view, which can challenge their ability to ask for help when needed. Plus, the journey into adulthood can feel confusing. In many ways this transition hits college kids rapidly. One morning, they’re eating breakfast in our kitchen; the next they’re waking up in a dorm with little to no direct oversight. They must manage their schedules and responsibilities, including when to go to bed and whether or not to study for a test. Those guardrails, like curfews, that kept them safe for 18 years? Gone.
While all this freedom can be, well, freeing, it can come with a great deal of pressure. They might be tempted to think they need to navigate this change perfectly with everything figured out. We know, however, that none of us have all the answers to every problem. On occasion, even the wisest, strongest, and most experienced individuals need advice, encouragement, and support. Our kids probably recognize this as well. They just might need periodic reminders.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we should attempt to fix all their challenges or shield them from every potential mistake. When we become overly involved in their lives, while we may indeed help them avoid a momentary crisis, we risk crippling them in the longterm. Our actions inevitably send one or more of the following messages: “I believe you’re incapable of succeeding in this environment,” or “failure is insurmountable and to be avoided at all cost.” But we can remind them, through our words, actions, and reactions that we believe in them and remain available to them. We do this, in part, by listening without judgement, and helping, without criticism, when invited.
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