by Dr. Steve Wilke, clinical psychologist
Youth and young adult often take more risks than they might at other times in their lives. As a parent, that can be scary!
When you are afraid your daughter or son is making a dangerous choice, I’d encourage you to first ask yourself this question: “What is the danger?”
If the danger is that he or she might not get into a school or program you hope they will attend, that is a much different danger than one in which they might fall off a cliff. The danger that they will not make much (or any) money for a while is different from the danger they might get severely ill.
Regardless of the danger, it’s fair to share concerns. Often, your son or daughter will have the same concerns. Listen to your young adult’s viewpoint and perspective. This is a great time to trust and to discuss. Perhaps there are ways to minimize some of the risks. What additional information might help? What has been the experience of others who have done similar things? Where is the motivation to do this coming from? All of these questions can be raised in helpful, non-judgmental ways.
I’ll never forget my own experience being afraid one of my children was walking into danger. When my daughter was in her early 20s she joined the Peace Corps and lived in a tiny village in West Africa that we were never able to locate on a map. She lived in a hut for two years in a place without running water or electricity.
What were the risks? That she would get sick? She did, but received medical help. That she would go hungry at times? She did, but she survived. That she would be lonely? She was, but grew in her self-confidence. That she would have culture shock, both coming and going? She did, but she returned without regrets.
Now, more than a decade later, she can trace a number of the wonderful aspects of who she is and what she does to following God’s call for her to step out on faith. As difficult as it was to see her go, she and I look back and agree it would have done tremendous harm to our relationship had I tried to stop her.
Most young people don’t pick such extreme situations in which to live (our other children didn’t) but when they do, it’s better to be a help along the way than to try to stop the process. Your daughter or son will appreciate your support, and you will be amazed at who they become.
As our children step out, it is best to remember they are not only our own children, but also children of God. God is a loving parent and is equipped to be with them wherever they are. God’s love has no limits.
An unexpected benefit of being a parent of children following God’s call and purpose for their lives are the blessings that also come your way when you join them in hope, faith, and love.
Of course, this reassurance may not erase your fears. That’s understandable. To help cope with the choices your kids make that cause you anxiety and fear, be sure to reach out to others for support and lean on God for your own well-being. After all, you are also one of God’s beloved children!