What Comes Next: When Your Adult Kids Face Difficult Times

Sometimes I think back to the struggles and hard times Gene and I have had in our marriage, especially the early years. I remember feeling hopeless and helpless. I remember wondering if the situation would ever change.

Then I try to remember what brought about change. Was it a piece of advice, change in situation, change in attitude, making better decisions? The answer is yes. Each situation was resolved in a different way. But the common denominator in every situation was our misery made took us to God and not always together. Our misery made us open to what God wanted to show us, teach us, and the changes He wanted to make in us and in our lives.

We had some messy times, but both Gene and I testify that those times made us stronger in our marriage, our relationship with God, and taught us valuable lessons.

When I look back on those times, I am thankful for them and the lessons we learned.

So why do I not want my kids to struggle? Why am I in angst when they are going through a hard situation? No parent likes to see their child struggle.

As parents* we need two things to be the parent our kids need when they are in a hard situation—perspective and prayer.

Perspective—We need to remember our own hard times and how we matured and benefited from those times. We need to remember that God is always working in our kids’ lives for their benefit (John 5:17, Romans 8:28). God has not forgotten our child. He can’t (Isaiah 49:15-16).

This morning while reading the book of Esther I was again reminded of God’s sovereignty and involvement in our lives. Throughout the book of Esther we see God orchestrating scary and difficult events to save His chosen people, the Jews.

The footnote for 6:1,2 in the New Living Testament Bible reads:

“Unable to sleep, the king decided to review the history of his reign, and his servants read to him about Mordecai’s good deed. This seems coincidental but God is always at work. God has been working quietly and patiently throughout your life as well. The events that have come together for good are not mere coincidence; they are the result of God’s sovereign control over the course of people’s lives (Romans 8:28).”

As the mom of adult kids, I need to remember Gene and my experience and not fret. I need to remember that God was working in each moment of our hard times—getting our attention, guiding our thoughts, working through our circumstances, and even after we thought we learned what God was trying to teach us the struggle continued until God accomplished His purpose in us.

The lessons we learn through struggle are the ones we remember the longest. They are the lessons that bring change in us.

Pray—Your role as a parent is to give advice when asked, but always to pray. It is the most powerful thing we can do for our kids. Back to the story of Esther—she found herself in a very difficult decision. Both options could have brought about her death. So she asked for her people and staff to fast before she went to the king and asked for his help. Again the footnote (4:16) in the NLT Bible helps understand the situation, “By calling for a fast, Esther was asking the Jews to pray for God’s help on her dangerous mission. In the Old Testament, prayer always accompanied fasting (see Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9; Ezra 8:21-23).” These prayers prepared the way for the king to respond favorably to Esther’s request to save the Jews from death.

If your kids are struggling now or when they do in the future, here are a few things to remember that will help you, and them, and your relationship with them:

  • Pray for them. Prayer invites God to work in others’ hearts and their situation.
  • Wait to give advice until asked. This is one I am always working on. Often times until the heart is stirred or changed, the best advice will be ignored and is useless, frustrating the giver of such unsolicited nuggets. If you’re not sure if your child wants advice, ask, “Do you want my advice or do you just want me to listen?” Then graciously do as they request.
  • God is the only One Who can change a heart and you are not Him. All of our wisdom and experience and even Scripture won’t help until God prepares their hearts to hear. Back to the first point—pray.
  • We need to stay out of God’s way of working in others’ lives. Our words can muck up the process of what God is doing. Be a good listener and encourager, but no harping and nagging. The other person can’t hear God because your words are so loud in his head—back to point one and two.
  • When/if the other person is ready for our nugget of truth, God will let us know. Then you can share, but limit your words. State the facts and advice and then stop talking—no sermons. Your child will let you know if they need more advice.

I know it’s hard waiting for your kids to learn the lessons you have already learned. It is their journey. Your part is to be there for them and to pray. These are the greatest gifts we can gift our adult kids.

*Of adult children living independently from their parents. My advice would be somewhat different when the adult child lives at home or on the dime of their parents. The way we parented our kids when they were living in our home is different from when they moved out on their own.





Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.

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