Our daughter is graduating high school this year. There are so many things about her graduation that are exciting. Graduation photos, prom, banquets, college planning—it’s all so new and so exciting. After all, this is what we’ve worked hard for as parents, right?
She’s so excited about college, and she’s definitely more independent than I was at her age. She has already met her two roommates. They have already planned their dorm room colors and chosen how they will coordinate. There are so many details that go into getting ready for college, but she is ready for them all. And so am I…I think!
See, I have to confess that this is not our first child to graduate and move off. As a matter of fact, she’s our third…and our last. We are about to be empty-nesters, which seems crazy to me. I look back, and I’m not sure where all the time went.
Getting ready for our daughter’s graduation party, we’ve been looking at old photos. I find myself getting a little nostalgic. She was such a cute little girl. It seems all of a sudden, as I look at her prom pictures, I notice she is a beautiful young woman. All these pictures, thoughts, and memories make me wonder—have we taught her everything we needed to?
As I launch all three of our children into the world, there are three things that I pray they have learned from us:
First, life is all about God.
In a culture where everything we do centers around our children, we are unintentionally teaching them that everything is about them. When we start teaching them as little children that life revolves around them, as they grow up, they don’t know how to handle life situations that don’t go their way. Life is not about them; it’s about Jesus. It’s about caring for the community around them and pointing others to a thriving relationship with Jesus.
The only way to teach this life lesson is to live it ourselves. No matter what they hear, if our children don’t see us living a Christ-first life in everything we do, then our words will fall short. As parents, we are commanded in Deuteronomy 6 to teach our children.
Second, they will not always win.
To protect our children’s self-esteem (we believe), we don’t allow them to fail. “Everybody wins” seems embedded in our culture. Everyone gets a trophy, everyone can be a cheerleader, and no one gets cut from the team. We are doing our children a disservice. We are teaching our children a sense of unrealistic entitlement.
Failing teaches us resilience, problem-solving skills, and independence. Allow your children to fail, and then help them learn how to grow through that. This allows them to learn that not everything is in their gifting. They need to learn how to utilize the gifts that God has given them and use them to His service.
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12
We need to teach our children that, unfortunately, they can’t be whatever they want. Our role is to help them, through trial and error, identify their unique gifts and use them to God’s glory.
Third, their identity is in Christ.
As a child and teenager, I was extremely insecure. I looked for my identity in the approval and friendship of others. If we give our children anything, it is to help them develop confidence and self-worth through their relationship with Christ.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. Psalms 139:14
Looking back, I know we did not do everything right. But, as we launch our last child into the world, we pray that all three saw in us what is important. Our desire is that they love Jesus with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind, and all their strength.
Kristi McElheney is the Pastoral Leader of Elementary Ministry at Stonebriar Community Church. Kristi’s passion is leading children to Christ and equipping parents to raise children who love and follow God. Kristi is earning her master’s degree in Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary. When she is not busy planning the many activities at church, she enjoys picking up her guitar and leading worship. Kristi and her husband have two sons in college and a daughter graduating high school.