This post is adapted from The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family by Kara Powell. To find out more about Sticky Faith or order this book bursting with practical ideas for parents of all ages, visit stickyfaith.org.
The two credit card applications, I expected. The handwritten letter was a surprise.
It was my first day on campus as a college freshman, and I decided to check my PO box. I immediately discarded the two credit card brochures. My mom had warned me about those.
While I chucked the applications, I was surprised to also find a handwritten note. It was from Pamela, one of the high school small group leaders in my home church. The week before I headed to college, Pamela asked my mom for the address to my PO box. She wasn’t even my small group leader, but she knew enough about life at college that she wanted a cheerful greeting from home to be waiting for me.
I walked back to my dorm room and taped that note from Pamela to the right of my mirror. Her note stayed there until Christmas, a daily reminder that my home church was thinking about me and praying for me. I had not been forgotten.
In the twenty-five years since I opened my PO box, technology has expanded the quantity and quality of pipes we can use to shower high school graduates with our care and concern. Our team at the Fuller Youth Institute recently heard from Sheila, a mom who asked a number of her church friends to write her son as he headed to a college fifteen hundred miles from home. A week later, her son Matthew posted on Facebook:
“I’ve only been at college for a week, and I have already received countless letters, texts, and posts from my home church. Thank you all so much! Every letter has encouraged me to keep my faith strong. With all the ‘options’ out there at college, it’s comforting to know that I have a church family back home supporting me and my beliefs. If you haven’t written to a college student yet, I encourage you to do so. It will make their day! “
Pamela’s note to me and Sheila’s mail bombardment for her son are more than just fun ideas; they are actually faith-building. Some parents—so wary of being helicopter parents and hovering over their maturing child—tend to go to the other extreme and go “radio silent.” According to our Sticky Faith research, that’s a mistake. Our study of over 500 youth group graduates indicates that contact from at least one adult from the congregation outside of the youth ministry during the first semester of college is linked to graduates’ faith maturity. Whether it’s newer technology like texting or something you’ve perhaps heard of called “the US Postal Service,” parents and other adults who keep in touch with your emerging adult child send faith-building messages that can still reverberate three years later.
If you want some creative ways to show your child you are still thinking of them after they graduate, consider…
- Following Sheila’s example and asking 3-10 friends to write your graduate a letter. Texting is a decent “plan B” but it’s not nearly as meaningful or lasting.
- Sending them a handwritten note on any type of paper you can find – tissues (unused please), toilet seat covers, airplane vomit bags – the more creative and outlandish, the more memorable it will be for your graduate.
- Mailing them a favorite food item every week for a month, or even a semester.
- Texting them pictures of items, scenes, or experiences that remind you of them. You can sprinkle photos already on your phone that feature your graduate into the mix.
- Sending them an item from home that’s meaningful to them—like a blanket they love, or a sweatshirt of yours that they used to borrow all the time.
How else have you stayed in touch with your graduating children? Or what ideas have you thought about that you’d like to try?