As a parent and leader, I am always intrigued in hearing college students and young adults talk about what they wish their families or churches had done differently. As we were filming the Sticky Faith Parent DVD Curriculum, a young adult named Joel so well-articulated a common cry from young people. If you haven’t yet seen the curriculum, let me give you a snapshot of Joel’s story.
Joel’s dad was removed from his family when Joel was young. Trying to raise Joel and his brother and sister alone, Joel’s mom was often and understandably overwhelmed. As Joel’s brother and sister ended up consuming more and more of her energy, Joel’s mom felt like she could basically leave Joel on his own because he seemed to be doing “just fine”.
The reality was that Joel wasn’t “fine”. On the outside, he was a high-performing student, leader, and Christian, but behind closed doors and on Friday nights, he was an out-of-control alcoholic.
But Joel seemed fine. So his mom focused on her other two young adult children, rarely even asking Joel how he was doing.
Looking back, Joel wished that his mom had asked him more questions. That his mom had taken time to send him a note in college, give him a call or a text to let him know she was thinking about him, and probed more into what he was doing on nights and weekends.
She never asked or acted, and Joel stayed silent.
Often teenagers or young people will even tell their parents, “I am fine. I don’t need you to follow up or check up on me.”
Parents, DON’T LISTEN TO THEM. Please. Don’t disengage. Your teenage and emerging adult children still need you to care, listen, and ask questions. They don’t need you to smother/helicopter/hover over them, but they do need you to be an involved presence in their lives.
If your child tells you to leave them alone, don’t do it.