Prayer is vital for all of us when a grown son or daughter leaves home.  When they head off for college, career, mission, marriage or military service, it is a time of extreme adjustment for both the son or daughter and the family they are leaving.   Here is a prayer for you to personalize for your family:

Prayer When  Son or Daughter Leaves Home

Dear Heavenly Father,

We approach you in prayer thanking you for the many years you have graciously allowed us to play the role of parents who have acted on your behalf to nurture, care for, guide, support, love and teach our son/daughter___________________.

John birthday, snow, SS song 020Now that they have reached this landmark age and are ready to venture out on their own, we suddenly feel that our time together was too short.  It is with mixed emotions that we prepare to send them off, feeling glad that they have reached this doorway into adulthood but also feeling a little sad that they will no longer be a regular part of our daily lives as they have been in the past.

We thank you for the future you have given to them to move into as they move out of our daily lives.  Give us the grace to share in their excitement and optimism over their new-found freedom and all of the possibilities it brings.  As they face the prospect of making their own decisions about life, please help them seek your guidance through prayer.   When they make a bad decision, give them the grace to learn from their mistakes and find your good way to get back on the right track.

john uga condo 014We ask that you grant them the ability to care for themselves as we have cared for them since childhood.  May they establish good health habits and good work habits.  May they form new bonds and relationships that will give them a supportive community of friends and mentors who they can count on when we are far away.  May you grant them wisdom in learning how to handle their finances and how to balance their work and their personal life.  Teach them the value of rest, worship and prayer.  Help them accept responsibility willingly and to take their commitments seriously.  Give them the power to persevere when things aren’t going their way and the power to overcome when they meet opposition and difficulties.

Show us meaningful and helpful ways to remain in touch with them.  Remind them that we love them and that we are always ready to listen, to advise and to help in any way possible.  Give us non-judgmental attitudes and  listening hearts so they will feel comfortable sharing  with us things that matter to them.   Restrain us from trying to tell them exactly what they should do and re-train us to allow them to make decisions.  Change our mindsets from that of a parent who has been in charge of their care for so many years into the mindset of one who is their refuge and a place they can come home to when they need nurturing, healing and solace.

Enlarge our hearts to love them unconditionally even when the conditions of our relationship get difficult.     Keep us from trying to rescue them whenever things get tough.  Instead, let us encourage them to solve their own problems so that they may develop their own toughness and inner strength to be resilient enough to move beyond setbacks, disappointments and failure and onto better things.

If it comes to pass in the future that they need us to step in and intervene in a crisis situation, grant us wisdom and discernment.  Help us to continually respect their adulthood and to set healthy boundaries to keep all of us from becoming entangled in living situations that cause stress, resentment and prevent growth.

We now look forward with anticipation and joy to this new chapter in our family and in our son/daughter’s life.    May we all grow in grace daily and grow in love and appreciation for the wonderful gift that came the day you first made us a family.   Thank you that it says in the Bible, “Behold I make all things new.”   (Revelation 21:5) We embrace with faith and trust the new family situation that time has brought to us today, knowing that you will enrich all of our lives through this new adventure.  We pray these things in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

My experiences

I wrote this prayer based on my own experiences.  As the parent of three grown sons, discovered that we really aren’t prepared when our son or daughter launches out on their own.  Further experience has shown me that even after they have left home initially for college, career or military and we’ve learned to adjust to their absence, there are further milestones such as when they get married or deployed to a war zone that brings back the same feelings of the initial letting go.

I remember vividly when our first son was in his first semester in college and I opened the silverware drawer in the kitchen and got out 5 places settings to set the table for dinner.  I suddenly remembering that Jeff wasn’t home any longer and I only needed 4 place settings.  As I put the extra silverware back in the drawer, a sort of aching loneliness and sadness came over me.  It’s strange how when our children are small it seems like they will be with us forever.  It comes as something of a shock to a parent when the day finally comes when they launch out on their own.  We can know in our mind that this day is coming, but there’s no way to prepare for the actual emotional feelings that will come.

The summer our second son was preparing to go to the West Coast to college, they had an orientation weekend where parents also attended with their incoming freshman.  While the students attended sessions on choosing majors and dorm life, parents attended sessions on tuition and college life. At the beginning of one of the parent sessions, I was surprised when we gathered in a large lecture hall to see boxes of tissue placed throughout the auditorium.  It turned out that the session was about how to adjust as parents to having our college students out on their own!  They had a parent speak whose son had gone off to college a few years before.  The woman shared how she was in the grocery store and put yogurt in her cart and then realized that her son off at college was the only one in the family who ate it, so she had to put it back on the shelf.   Tears came to my eyes and I was glad of the tissues being in the auditorium!   I discovered that just because you’ve already sent one child off that it won’t be just as hard sending off the second!  In fact, sending the last one off is often much worse than sending off the first because of the emptiness of the house afterwards.

One thing I recall of the content of that parent orientation session was that it was when I first became aware of the term “helicopter parent” which they were gently trying to prevent us from being.  It’s the kind of parent who hovers over the child and swoops in and tries to solve all of the child’s problems for them.

God in his wisdom (and also I believe in a divine exercise of his great and providential sense of humor)  set up conditions with our second son going to college on the West Coast that prevented us from knowing on a day-to-day basis what was going on with our son.   We were fortunate to get maybe two emails a week and a phone call on Sundays.   Our visits to campus were limited to one Parent’s Weekend a year.  His college years were when I really learned how to pray for our son and to trust God.

It wasn’t easy.  His sophomore year he drove all the way to California by himself in the fall.  And he didn’t call us to tell us when I felt he should have to tell us that he had arrived safely.  Frantic with worry, I called the campus housing department to see if he had checked into his dorm.   He had checked in.  He was safe.   And the next time I talked with him we discussed the kinds of things that would be helpful for him to do for my peace of mind, such as letting me know he had arrived safely.

The bottom line is that the whole family needs prayer when a son or daughter launches out on their own.  It is a time of great potential not only for the son or daughter moving into the next phase of their life but also for the parents who have the potential of moving into the next phase of their prayer lives as they trust and rely on God in new ways to care for their child.

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Copyright Karen Barber 2016.  All rights reserved.