Chuck Bomar, a friend of ours here at Orange, has a big heart for college-age people. He has recently written a book directed toward parents and leaders of those who are college-aged to help bring comfort, understanding and direction. Here is an excerpt and some comforting words to those in this stage of parenting from his newly released book World’s Apart:
If you are a parent, there is a reality you must be aware of: Your child desires a relationship with you. There might be some obstacles for you here. Most children have crept away from you relationally, at least some degree, throughout middle and high school. They moved from never wanting to leave your side to wanting to be dropped off two blocks away to now pursuing relationships with other people who will whelp them find out who they are apart from you. But make no mistake about it, they can never fully separate. They never stop needing their parents. It’s just that we need to adapt as parents.
Regardless of what you may feel or what your child may have said last week, a relationship with you is more than a need. It’s a desire. The truth is most children don’t want to separate either. You are your child’s parent. That is a space nobody else in the world can fill. And no matter how broken your relationship might be at this moment, know that your child probably wishes it wasn’t.
I talked with one mother of a college sophomore who was dealing with some insecurities in her relationship with her daughter. At times she felt secure, but other times she felt terribly disconnected. There were times her phone rang late in the evening, and her daughter had a life question. She felt great because her daughter actually wanted and needed to talk to her. But then there were long periods of time when her daughter only called asking for money or cut short a visit home. Those are scary questions, especially at this stage of life when a mom is questioning her role in her daughter’s life. It’s a scary realization that a mother doesn’t even know the majority of people who are relationally influencing her daughter.
But this mother sat back and patiently waited for the phone to ring. She didn’t want to hover and push her daughter away. She didn’t want to become an annoyance. I also sat down with her dauther. I never shared the feelings of her mom. I simply asked questions. And without even knowing it the daughter gave some great insights into the relational tension her mom felt. Here are a few things the daughter wished her mom understood:
- The disconnect was not because the daughter didn’t love or value her mom. She was simply feeling the need to find out who she was individually.
- The daughter felt like she already knew what her mom would say with most topics, so she didn’t felel the need to ask as often. It’s not that she didn’t think about what her mom would say. She simply wanted to know what other people thought too.
- The daughter felt that her mom’s advice was biased. She didn’t blame her mom for this, but she felt like her mom couldn’t give her totally objective advice.
These insights don’t erase the tension, but they can bring a sense of comfort to parents. Of course its scary to realize your child is out there trying to find herself and you are totally out of contro. But it can be helpful to know that what you’re experiencing is a part of growing up–not a personal rejection. It’s just an age-stage thing–and ultimately a healthy aspect of life.
Chuck Bomar served almost nine years at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, where he started a college ministry from scratch and served as pastor of student ministries. Chuck moved to Portland, OR, to start and pastor Colossae Church. He founded and leads CollegeLeader (www.CollegeLeader.org), an organization focused on helping local church leaders understand and embrace ministry to college-aged people. His desire is to help every church, in every context, care for and include college-aged people in everything they do.