My children are now twenty-six, twenty-four, twenty-two, and twenty years old. I am more convinced than ever that the leaders who have invested in my son and daughters during their elementary and teenage years have had critical influence. Those were important years that have affected their concept of God. There are countless stories and faces of the people who have influenced their faith and molded their views, people who will be lifelong friends to them.

As important as their teenage years were, this stage is different. The stakes are extremely high. Over the past couple of years I have watched my kids struggle with college and career choices, establish new friends, move into their own spaces, move back home again, date, and in a couple of instances go through heartbreaking situations that emptied them emotionally. The one thing I am most grateful for during this phase is the adult men and women who invest in my children’s lives. I am smart enough to know that I am not the only leader they need to help them navigate these years.

I decided a long time ago to look for opportunities to encourage them to connect with mentors and leaders our family could trust to be wise voices in their worlds. At some point in my life, I realized I should be involved in doing the same thing I hoped other people would do for my children. I have watched college-aged people wait tables, manage retail stores, hang out at movie theaters and coffee shops, and I’ve seen they are almost always with their peers. It seems like they disappear in the eyes of the adult population that walks by them or orders from them or sits next to them.

Something has changed in me over the past decade when I see someone in this age bracket. When I meet someone who is college-aged, I think about my kids, then I think about their parents, and I wonder what I can do that would reflect what I would want another adult to do if this were my son or daughter. It’s not that I am extremely gracious or noble; it’s just that I am a dad and I have children, and I know adults who care about my kids. So I tend to care about other people’s kids; it’s just contagious that way. I have this tendency to tell every adult I meet to consider investing in someone who is college-aged.

So here’s the question for parents of all ages: Who is the college-aged person in your life you need to adopt?