Being the mom of two college-aged kids and one 8th grader is still surprising. Of course, you know when you have kids they will eventually leave home, but it still amazes me that we are here. I find myself looking back over the years and feeling grateful for God’s guidance and also sometimes wishing there were things I could do over!  I have been thinking about all the ways we work to provide for our children while they are under our care. There are countless tasks necessary to nurture and love and raise children. For me, there were times I forgot that my job as a mother in the first 18 years of my child’s life was that of a steward. God entrusted me to care for my kids, but not possess them. The goal was to raise them and then launch them into adulthood. In other words, an enormously important part of what I needed to do was to get them ready to survive and thrive without me!

So, in light of that goal, and my failures as well as successes, I am offering my suggestions of important areas to train your children in, before launching them from your lovely nest.

1. Teach them the gospel- as it applies personally to them. Often Christian parents do not share the full gospel with their children because they forget- my child cannot be saved by simply being around church or me. They are a sinner in need of a savior as much as we are! Your child needs to understand, they are separated from God because of their sin, and God loves them so much He sent Jesus to die for them! They must personally choose to place their faith in Jesus’ death in their place.

2. They need to know how to handle and resolve conflict. Often, as adults, we are still working through our fears of conflict, so we neglect to teach our children healthy ways to confront sin, talk about hurts or resolve differences. We begin by modeling healthy skills to them in our marriages or other adult relationships. But also, by showing them that it is ok to express their feelings and disagree with us.

3. Teach them to take responsibility for themselves. This includes waking themselves up, arriving on time, making conversation with others, saying I’m sorry when they fail, getting and keeping a job, “showing up” for family and close friends and setting boundaries. In an era when many parents want desperately to shield their children from pain, remember it’s okay for kids to face some stress as they learn responsibility and those consequences will save them a world of pain later.

4. Teach them how to balance their checkbook, pay bills and budget. Teach them why credit cards are dangerous. Teach them why we tithe and how to save. In other words, give them some tools for managing money. The Bible has so much to say about money for a reason- it is a powerful temptation to place it as the God in our life, and yet has just as much potential to be a tool used for good.

5. Help your kids identify their God-given ‘bent” that can give them direction in choosing a future career, college, and life goals. Kids don’t all come driven and self-aware. Some kids come out of the womb declaring a future occupation it seems, while others shrug their shoulders and give the classic “I dunno” when asked what they want to be “when they grow up” well into their high school years. One great blessing you can give your children in helping them understand their personality, strengths, and weaknesses so that they can make a wise choice.

6. Teach them about sex. Not the “awkward, let’s read a book and pretend not to be embarrassed” talk, but conversations about the beautiful purpose and gift of sex. We need to teach them how sex is sacred and it can be the ultimate expression of love, but when experienced out of the context of marriage, is always destructive and can be utterly devastating. Give them the facts of course, but the facts alone aren’t enough to prepare them to deal with such a powerful force.

I’m assuming you have already covered the following: hygiene, education, living in a community of faith, college football (ok, maybe that’s just us), doing laundry, nutrition, dating and marriage, 80’s rock, the joy of eating Indian food (wait- just us again?) and social media. Don’t be overwhelmed by all there is to prepare your children for in this life. Remember that it is God who equips you to lead and love them and He will work through you.