Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What to do and what not to do when your child dates an unbeliever

My seminary schedule is quite heavy at the moment, so I'm taking time to re-post this. 

I recently read a woman's view that as long as one sheltered her children from unbelievers enough, she would never need to worry about kids dating unbelievers or dabbling in the world. I still squirm at the notion that our children's spiritual development is simply a matter of controlling their environment. The reality is that good parents raise kids who do unwise things. When we're young, we're tempted to think our kids will never do that! Sometimes, they do. I hope this provides encouragement for some today.

In a perfect world, our children would do everything we said without question and give us very few moments of concern. Of course, we do not live in a perfect world. Our children make choices that we recognize immediately as bad. One of the struggles many parents confront is the news that their child is dating someone who is not a Christian. It can be a terribly stressful time for the entire family when this happens. Our reaction may be anger, self-recrimination, despair or all three. None of those reactions will help us handle the situation in a godly way.

I have been on both sides of this matter; I was the unbelieving girl who dated someone's son, and I've been the mother of a child who dated an unbeliever. The purpose of this post is not to teach about the issue of being unequally yoked. It is, rather, to offer some suggestions to moms who find themselves unexpectedly dealing with their adult child dating someone who is not a Christian.

Temper your reactions. If you react with uncontrolled emotion and reproach, your child may retreat fast and keep things from you. Reacting with "What will people say?" (aside from being the wrong question to ask), will simply not help. Express your concern, by all means, but be calm about it.

See the friend's need of Christ. Instead of seeing him or her as an interloper, see a person who is facing eternal judgment.  Whatever happens, we should want this person to come to Christ. If we look at the person as a threat, it will show in how we treat them. Remember, the friend is spiritually blind, and will not understand why you object to the relationship.

Give the friend a bible. If there is a special occasion such as Christmas or a birthday, give her one as a gift. When you give the gift, offer your availability to answer questions. It could be the means of building a bridge. My mother-in-law gave me a bible and marked passages for me to read. Four weeks later, I was converted. The friend may take it politely and then throw it away, but then again, she may not.

Encourage your child to bring the friend home for a visit. Let the friend see a Christian family up close and personal. Encourage him to attend church with you. If the friend is uncomfortable and doesn't want to, be patient, and keep inviting. Special occasions like Christmas and Easter are good times to extend an invitation.

Avoid nagging and combative dialogue. The fastest way to chase away a child is to nag. You don't have to withhold the truth, but there is a time when you must speak and then let things be. Constant badgering will only chase your kids away. Avoid the temptation to engage in constant shaming of them, or reminding them of your anxiety over the situation. Your disagreement with the relationship is not about your feelings; it's about your child being in a relationship that is, ultimately, not biblical, and dangerous to his spiritual life.

Remember your child is your child for life. The dating relationship may end, but you will still have a relationship with your child. The way you conduct yourself while he's dating this person could cause estrangement, and you don't want that. When I confronted this situation as a mother myself, my husband's continual advice to me was not to do anything that would cause long term damage to my relationship with my child. It was good advice.

Be patient. Our children are adults, and sometimes, they need to come to their own conclusions, even if means getting stung, or living with hard consequences. They are growing and developing, and what may seem an obviously serious situation to you may not to them. Pray for your child and his friend; pray for God's will to be done. And pray for your own heart, that you would know when to speak and when to be silent, and that you would know that God is sovereign over this situation.

My mother-in-law could not force her 20 year old son to stop seeing me. But she was able to see me as someone in need of a Saviour, someone she needed to love. She was careful to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) toward me, and I never forgot that. When it was my turn to go through this, it was her example that I followed, and I'm glad I did.

As parents, we need to set an example. It does not mean we forget the truth and make excuses. It does mean recognizing when we must allow our children to be the adults they are. We can only control our responses, ones that are guided by grace, love, and kindness.

1 comment:

  1. I will keep this in mind for down the road. hopefully I never have to use it though...