'Tis the season. Your college kid will be home for the holidays, your grown kids will be returning home and all those awkward holiday moments are coming! Here a few ways to make those dinner conversations a little more palatable with you and yours this Christmas, and hopefully, ensure they’ll return next break.
1. The Future Talk – It’s an honest line of questioning: “Got a job lined up?” “Are you ever going to get married?" "How will you ever make it in that career?" These are genuine questions you may have for your college kid home for the holidays. It's your heart for them, you care, you want them to be successful. However, this isn't what they hear from you. They hear: "You're not planning well!" "You're wasting your time!" “Your biological clock is ticking and I'm getting older!" But that’s not my heart in those questions. Maybe not, but many times this is WHAT they hear you saying. Instead, you may try this: “Tell me the most significant thing you learned about your field this semester.” "Did you make any new friendships this semester?" "Have you considered looking into an internship in your field?"
2. The Comparison Talk - “Your brother did so well when he was in college!" "I've known others who just didn't like that career!" “My friend's daughter has straight A's for the semester!" Yes, they know. They didn't "measure up" in several ways this semester. Their life is taking shape differently than first born or baby of the family! Your young adult child is probably more aware of these issues than you know. As a matter of fact, they probably are harder on themselves than they need be. What they need to hear is that WHO they are is ok. That you love them just as they are. Are there reasons they did poorly this semester? Maybe, but pointing out those "decencies" is probably counterproductive. Maybe approach these questions you have with positive suggestions to move forward. Maybe ask, "Is there any way I can help you next semester?" "Do you have everything you need to be successful?"
3. The Faith Talk - “You know better than that! We've had you in church your whole life!" Yep, your college kid may come home with some questions about their faith! The reason is potentially that they are trying to figure out THEIR faith. To some degree, they lived out the assumed faith of your house their whole life. Whether an on campus group, a Philosophy 101 professor, or a new group of friends, they most likely have been exposed to a new realm of thought. I’m even betting that they said or did some things that you are not proud of (this is especially prevalent of college freshman or adult children who are coming back after their first career job that may have moved them away). It's completely understandable that you are hurt, disappointed, or even worried. Maybe you have reason to be, but what they need MOST from you is to know that without a shadow of doubt that their doubts, failures, or poor choices will never change they way you love and care for them. Home must be a safe place for them to work through doubts or questions about faith. Be sure to have open conversations and not arguments about who believes what. The greatest way you can help your young adult navigate faith development is not flexing your parental muscles but excessing your patience and understanding as they sort life just as you had to.
They're coming home soon. They’ve had a rough semester, made some mistakes, haven't always measured up, but they are still the greatest legacy God has given you. Steward it well! Be open for conversation. Encourage more than you criticize. Feed them decent meals and let them sleep late. More than anything, love them, guide them, and pray for/with them. You're going to want them to come home again, so make the best out of this break!
(While writing this blog, I ran across this article from Fuller Seminary on similar topic. Its very well written and you will find it a helpful companion to the above)