Do you have a college-age child? How did you — or do you — feel as they left your home? Defeated? Helpless? Hopeless?
For many parents, as their children leave for college, there’s a sense of dread that can wash over you.
Did I do enough?
Are they prepared to live their life for Christ?
How can I help them to live and love like Jesus?
Don’t lose hope as a parent. Even though your college-age child may not live in your house, you still have the ability to teach and model the Christian life — even from a distance.
Here are six ways you can shape the faith of your college-age child.
#1. Care about your child’s struggles
Are you only concerned about your child’s salvation?
Help your child work through challenging situations. Work with them to answer tough questions. Pick them up with grace when they fall.
Let them know that God cares about their concerns; not just their soul.
#2. Share your struggles
As your children age, it’s a good idea to open up about your struggles gradually. Share your weaknesses. Confess your sins when you do them wrong. Be honest about your own experience as a Christian.
When sharing your mistakes or sins, it’s also a good idea to point out how the Lord redeemed the situation. Let your child know where you went wrong, what you learned from your mistake or sin, and how the Lord made things right. Opening up in this way will give your children a tangible example of how the Lord works in our everyday lives.
Also, allowing your kids to see into your life will not provide them with a license to sin. Rather, sharing your struggles will let them know that they don’t have to be perfect, but that they worship a perfect Savior.
#3. Let your child learn
Unless your college age child is on the verge of getting arrested or making a life-altering mistake, then give them room to live and learn.
Most parents have a desire to protect their children and help them to avoid costly mistakes, make wise decisions, and to get a great start in life. However, as your child gets older, your good desires can feel suffocating.
So, as a parent, give your college age child room to breathe. Speak into their life. Provide them counsel. But let them make decisions and live with their consequences or rewards.
#4. Answer your child’s questions
While in college, your child will field a tremendous amount of questions from peers and professors about the Christian life. Depending on what college your child attends, they may be in a situation where people are actively discouraging their faith and life in Christ.
When your child asks you a difficult question about the Christian life, don’t immediately shut them down. If you don’t know the answer, then let them know, but also tell them you will find out.
You might believe you’re the best source of information or a biblical scholar, but you are a parent or guardian who can provide support and direction when your child feels unanchored and cast into a sea of doubt.
#5. Equip them to fight
The Christian life is a battle. Unlike The Lego Movie, everything is not awesome.
Instead of encouraging your child to avoid challenging situations or separate him or herself from “worldly” things and people, equip them to know what they believe and why they believe. Help them to seek the Lord for the power to live the life he has called them to live.
The Lord didn’t provide us with armor to sit on the sidelines or in a house of comfort (Eph. 6:10–20). Rather, he gives us the equipment we need to fight the battles of life.
#6. Encourage your child to get involved with a local church
There are many great college ministries your child can get involved with. From providing community, resources on how to live the Christian life, and opportunities to serve the community, there are many benefits a college ministry can provide. But there’s one thing a college ministry is not: A local church.
Encourage your child to get involved with a local church as soon as they’re able. You can look ahead of time to help them identify a few for them to visit.
During this period, be open to where they may choose to worship. Even though they may form different opinions on secondary matters than your own, that’s okay. Lead them to embrace the essential truths of the faith.
What would you add to this list? Share your advice in the comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!