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Question:
My 19 year old Christian daughter lives at home. She is going to college and we are supporting her while in school. We suspect she is having sex with her boyfriend. Do you have any advice on how to handle this?

Answer:

Tell her that she is an adult and she can make her own decisions, but that SHE will also have to accept the ADULT consequences of her decisions.

That is a truth that BOTH parent and adult child has to face. As parents, we have to accept the fact that our children grow up, and can CHOOSE SIN. You did. I did. They will. It’s part of life.

As parents of adult children (by this I mean about 18-21 year old), we have to balance between allowing them to grow up, make mistakes, sin, and face the consequences with NOT enabling them to sin by financing it.

What do I mean by that? If we have adult children who are choosing willful and unrepentant sin that is out of line with our Christian faith (such as routine drunkenness, fornication or drug use), then we cannot enable that lifestyle passively by continuing to bear responsibilities for them such as room and board, health care, tuition, auto expenses, etc.

They have to learn (and some parents do too) that with adult choices, come adult responsibilities.

Relating to our question today, part of those consequences are that you have a minimum set of rules and standards she must adhere to if she wants your continued financial support… “Christian lifestyle” rules… no drinking, drugs or promiscuity… a decent respect for letting you know where she is at, and when she’ll be home… come in at reasonable hours at night….

I might say something like this, “If, as a an adult, you don’t want to live by those rules, you are, as an adult, free to move out and totally support yourself”.

Again, you must be ready and willing to let her “go it alone” and no matter how difficult it becomes (like dropping out of school, or losing her car, or getting kicked out of an apartment… anything that happens to her financially), you can’t run in and rescue her. Just tell her “work hard, live frugally, you’re an adult, you’ll do fine”.

She’ll survive. In the end, she’ll love you and respect you for having moral courage and upholding your Christian standards.

If you waffle and fret and worry that “your child can’t make it on their own”, she’ll not only NOT respect you, she’ll grow up, have kids and treat them the same way. (good or bad, our kids repeat what we’ve done about 99% of the time).

Also, and I’ve done this, I would have a VERY frank conversation with the young man she is seeing. Is he a Christian? Show NO nervousness or hesitation when you speak to him. I would say something like this:

“I’m sure you’re a fine man. You seem to work hard and appear to be a decent guy. However, my daughter is a Christian which means that any sexual activity before marriage is a sin. If you are being promiscuous with her, you are causing her to violate everything she believes in which leaves only two options: either she is nothing but a piece of meat that you don’t care about except to have sex with… or you are showing her great disrespect and leading her to sin proving that you care the MOST about your own sexual gratification and the not the emotions, health and spiritual welfare of the woman you say you care for.”

And, if he is a Christian:

“And, God will hold you accountable for your actions. The Bible says we are to protect and honor women, and you are doing neither. You are playing on her emotions and need for love in order to satisfy your own immoral need for sexual gratification. Don’t be deceived. God is not mocked. Whatever seeds you plant now, you will grow up and harvest later. If you have ANY desire for a good marriage and healthy sex life in that marriage, you better quit mocking God with fornication now.”

Your daughter needs to be reminded of the consequences of her sexual sin as well that will come back most likely in the form of marriage problems, infidelity, a poor love life in marriage and the repeat of the sin in her own kids. These are the VERY probable results of her promiscuity.

Don’t sugar coat, don’t talk to them like “kids”. Lay it on the line, make them fully aware of their choices and the consequences.

Then, you have to accept that they are adults, and may choose the wrong course anyway. If so, trust God to deal with them just as He deals with us.

Remember, your adult children are adults in the sense that they can make their own choice, pursue them, and there is nothing you can do about it. The only responsibility we have is to make sure our support (financial, room and board, expenses) comes with a reasonable level of lifestyle conditions, that will give them some reason and constraint to help them retain a Christian lifestyle through a time of life (young adulthood) when their immaturity conspires with their hormones, impulses and emotions.

We have to be ready to let them “go it alone” however if they choose a lifestyle in conflict with their (or ours) Christian testimony. You don’t quit loving them. You don’t reject them. You don’t shun them. But neither do you support them, directly or passively, if they choose a lifestyle contrary to your faith.

I’ve had to say something similar to one of my adult children. “I love you and always will. I’ll never stop being your father however, make no mistake, I will do NOTHING to help you live this lifestyle; I will not accept it or allow it in my home or around the rest of the family. I will not help you financially, nor will I pretend to accept this around your friends who are part of this bad choice.”

It’s NOT easy but we do our kids NO favors by being spineless, weak, fretful or indecisive when they choose to exercise their “adulthood” in a manner that is destructive to their faith, emotions and future welfare. This whole idea today of “you just have to love them through it” without actually allowing any hard consequences to come into play is just an excuse for a lack of moral and parental fortitude.

I’ve told my own children often: “you may go ahead and decide to [do this bad behavior or sin], but don’t ever look back and say ‘no one warned me, I didn’t know it was wrong’”.

This is important for them to know because when they finally have to reap the consequences for their sin, they have to face it without excuse, which helps them grow and learn faster.

Parenting children who are transitioning into adulthood is a tough balancing act. You have a time where in some ways they are mature, and other ways they are still immature or inexperienced. For us as parents, it’s a balancing act between protecting them, and letting them grow up.

Be tough. Be loving. Be compassionate. Be strong in the upholding of your faith and Christian testimony. In the end, children respect loving strength and compassionate firmness, not hand-wringing and giving in to manipulation or acceptance of sin.

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