It was a hot and humid August day as we pulled away from the college dorm where my oldest daughter would live for the semester. She was smiling and waving, and I was doing my best to mirror her enthusiasm. But all I could see in my mind’s eye was a flashback of her as a small kindergartener. I remembered that day as she entered her classroom, waved goodbye to me, and smiled at her new friends and teacher. No crying or whimpering. No hanging on to mom or running back for one last hug. She was so brave and excited at 5 and at 18. I, on the other hand, sobbed like a baby once I was back in the seclusion of my car. Lord, help me. I have two more daughters! How would I get through this again … and again? In all of these school “drop offs” and many other instances, I was the mom who had to learn to let go. I had to learn to release my kids from the nest.
One of the best parts of being a parent is getting to watch your child grow up and mature. It is exciting as your child learns and experiences new things. We want our children to become the people that God created them to be. We want them to grow and mature like Jesus. He didn’t stay a baby and stick with His mom all the time. Just read Luke 2:41-52 when His parents had to search for Him for three days when He was only 12 years old! Jesus was growing and maturing and becoming more independent of His earthly parents — “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people” (v. 52). Like Jesus, eventually, we want our children to be young adults who learn to live as thriving, independent adults.
Whether your kids are entering kindergarten, in school each day, off at college, married, or living on their own, it is normal and OK to miss your kids. They are part of you. God has entrusted them to you. So here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way as I’ve released my kids from the nest (or keep trying to!)
- Pray constantly. I’m not sure about all the details of any fear or anxiety my daughters experienced leaving home, but this mom had enough for all of us! If worry were a spiritual gift, which it is not, I was gifted beyond measure! I worried about most things for my daughters—physical safety, friendships, choices they would make when they were away from me. I obviously did not trust the Lord, nor my own parenting, like I needed to. And so I learned to pray, handing any control I thought I had over to God. My fears were rooted in a lack of faith. However, as I spent time in God’s Word, and in prayer, those fears, anxieties, and worries dissipated. I would pray Scripture over my children—Proverbs 4:23; Micah 6:8; Philippians 4:19; Ephesians 1:17-19; Colossians 1:9-12. Ultimately, I learned to pray Exodus 33:14 over myself, Let Your presence go with me and give me rest.
- Affirm your kids. Regardless of their age or where they live, affirm how you see God working in their lives. Use your words in written or verbal form to build them up. Send a quick text about what you love about them or how proud you are of who they’ve become. Ephesians 4:29 says, “No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need so that it gives grace to those who hear.” Your kids can always use words of affirmation and praise from you. The world does its fair share of tearing them down and criticizing their efforts. But your kids have value and purpose. Remind them that you are on their side and cheering them on when they are young and when they are older. “Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24).
- Love always. You can’t control the choices your kids make especially as they grow older. You may not agree with some of their decisions. You don’t have to like or endorse all of their choices, but you can still love. You will always be their mother. Keep the doors of communication open by your love. Exchange any worry you have about your kids for trust in God. Remember that He loves them more than you do. Hand their futures over to God. Just as God blesses us with His favor, bless your kids by creating a climate where faith and trust are strong. Remind them that you love them and pray blessings over them even when you don’t like some of their choices or decisions. You may even want to share Numbers 6:24-26. “May the LORD bless you and protect you; may the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the LORD look with favor on you and give you peace.”
When our kids leave home, our emotions can get the best of us in those moments. I pictured my 18-year-old as a 5-year-old instead of the fully capable and strong young woman she had become. I needed to see how those little wings I cradled had grown strong and capable of flying. She was ready to explore and experience new things. She was ready to meet new people and cultivate those relationships. She was ready to soar, and she did.
As for me, my birdie comes back to the nest from time to time, and I treasure every moment.
Michelle Hicks is the managing editor for Journey devotional magazine with Lifeway Women. Michelle served as a freelance writer, campus minister, and corporate chaplain before coming to Lifeway. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Michelle has a deep hunger for God’s Word and wants others to discover the abundant life they can have with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.