Well, really this is for the parents of the girl not going off to college because this can be such an odd season for everyone involved. High school is over, the summer is coming to a close, and she’s spreading her wings to fly…back to her bedroom. In your house.
Your girl is somehow more grown up but is physically in the same spot. She may be 18, but she isn’t quite an adult yet. She’s starting a new chapter but still in the same book. How do you help her start fresh in a place that feels so familiar?
Give space; stay present.
Your girl may be staying home to work. She may be staying home to go to community college. She may be staying home because she’s just trying to figure out her life. Whatever the reason, whether or not staying was her choice, there will be times when it’s going to be difficult. The fear of missing out is all too common (I blame social media, amen??), and seeing her friends live a different life is going to sting. Allow her room to process and maybe even to grieve. Not going off to college is not a death, but it is a loss—a loss of what she expected for her life. A loss of time with friends who have left. A loss of excitement for the days ahead.
While you’re allowing her space to feel her feelings, you can stay present by simply making yourself available. Listen when she needs to talk. Acknowledge her feelings; don’t just jump right into trying to fix them. When the time comes, help her think of ways to make the best of the situation! Show her how to get involved or make friends. Help arrange trips to go see her friends who are off at school. Help her find a therapist to help her process such a major transition.
Finally, ask friends, family, and the cashier at the grocery to intercede on your behalf because you’re both going to need all the prayer you can get.
Don’t push; encourage.
Now parents, I understand you may have rules as a part of your girl living in your home. One of which may be that your daughter has to continue to go to church. Even so, it will ultimately be up to your girl as to what she gets out of it.
One of my favorite things about college ministry is that students who show up are choosing to be there. Because of that choice, they have a vested interest in growing their relationships with the Lord and with each other. I know that some girls may need a little more encouragement than others, but it is not your job as parents to convince them of their need for Jesus or community. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. And because you’ve been “training her up in the way she should go,” it shouldn’t take too much work! (Proverbs 22:6)
Leaders, this is where you can come in! If you’ve been doing life with girls in student ministry, college isn’t the time to cut all ties. Follow up! Check on your girls who are both at home and away at school. Help them find community and continue to encourage them to pursue Christ. If you have a student who didn’t go off to college, ask her to grab coffee or connect her with other young women who are also staying at home. Just because you stopped being her leader, doesn’t mean you should stop being in her life. She needs all the support she can get!
Don’t compare; affirm.
You probably have friends whose girls may have gone off to college, are doing great, and have big plans for the future. You may even have other children who have done the same thing. But those kids are not your daughter. The Lord has laid out a different path for her, and comparing that to the path of anyone else will not be helpful. Your doubt will make her doubt. Your lack of belief will evolve into her own.
If you find yourself having a hard time believing that your daughter is going to be okay, pray. You may even find that your lack of belief isn’t even about your daughter. It could be that you’re having trouble letting go of the plan for her that you’d laid out in your mind. It could be that you’re having trouble trusting that the Lord truly does have a plan and hasn’t lost sight of her.
Ask God to help you trust Him with your daughter’s life! When you do, you can cheer her on in every season with the utmost sincerity and absolute confidence that she will be alright.
This chapter she’s in is only that: a chapter. This is not her whole story. The path of staying home, going to community college, or moving straight into a vocation is not any less valuable than the path of those who chose to go off to college.
When I had trouble making a decision, my mom always said, “Nothing you can do is going to change God’s plan for your life.” And it was always such a relief to hear. It is by the absolute grace of God that we are not that powerful. We don’t have the power within ourselves to make our lives incredible which means we don’t have the power to ruin our lives, either. Even the worst thing that you can think of for your daughter won’t change what the Lord has for her. That being said, staying home is not the worst thing, and the Lord will make good from it. Trust Him!
Alyssa Lewis is a Nashville area native, enneagram enthusiast (super basic, she knows), and huge advocate of mental health. She has been serving in girls ministry for several years and it is her heart’s desire to work with young women in a vocational ministry capacity in the future. She is passionate about seeing young women grow from a basic knowledge of the Lord to a genuine love for Him and active pursuit of relationship with Him. Alyssa loves any time spent with friends, singing at the top of her lungs, and eating ice cream—preferably Jeni’s. Connect with Alyssa: Instagram