By Debbie McDaniel, Crosswalk.com
The days before our teens leave for college can be an emotional roller coaster. All grown up and ready for the future, excitement over new beginnings mixed with fears of the unknown ahead may leave us laughing at one moment and crying the next. Life transitions can be difficult for us as parents, and for our kids too.
But here’s a hopeful reminder: our children belong to Him. No matter where they go or how old they are, they are safe in God’s care. His reach is vast, and His power is limitless. As we entrust our kids straight into the care of our powerful and loving God, we can rest assured that He sees, He understands, and is right there with them.
Our words of guidance, wisdom, and prayers surrounding our teens are integral to their next steps. As we strive to keep communication flowing, listen to their hearts, and support them as they grow and move forward, we can help equip them for God’s greatest purposes for their lives.
Here are 10 conversation starters to have with our teens before they leave for college to remind them of God’s care. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but only the beginning of some reminders our kids may need, and conversations to keep open through the years:
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1. You are never alone.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Often the most difficult part of leaving home, family, and all that’s familiar is the incredible loneliness we may feel at times. It’s normal to have to give some time to adjust to the differences and new location; we may miss a lot of things from home. But wherever we are in life, at college, in a new city, or at a workplace in the future, one thing is certain – God is with us, always. He promises His protection and care over us, and He is forever faithful. He is the one constant in our lives, He alone is our Rock and Refuge. Keep looking up to Him to find your strength for every day.
2. You are loved and accepted.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)
A reminder to our hearts at every stage of life, but especially in these teen/college years: You are held by a mighty God who is crazy about you! You are loved. You are accepted. Period. You never have to earn His love; it’s not based on what you could ever do for Him. God reminds us over and over in His Word how He chases after us with His goodness, how He loves us with an everlasting love. It’s strong, it’s supportive, it’s secure, it’s forever. In a fleeting world that bases so much attention on what we do or look like, God’s acceptance of us just for who we are brings peace and renewed strength on the inside. Never forget who you belong to. You are His child, you are a light in a world that needs hope, you are destined for great things.
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3. You don’t have to carry it all.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Let’s be real, college can feel stressful sometimes. Learning new independence in life, working hard in school, jobs, and other activities can leave us feeling drained and anxious at times. God reminds us that we were never intended to carry it all on our own. He invites us just to come to Him and give Him all that concerns us and is occupying too much room in our thoughts. Laying down the heavy burdens is a choice we have to make every day, but if we do, He promises rest and peace that this world can’t ever give.
4. God is the only One who can offer real peace.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
We will always hear lies about what will bring true happiness in this life, and sometimes we might even start to believe them for a while. But sooner or later the lies break down and prove to be dead ends leading nowhere. Money, success, popularity, people, power, drugs, sex – these things will never give us the lasting peace and security that only Christ can bring. In a loud, chaotic world that will seek to pull us away from what’s most important, cherish most your relationship with Jesus. Nothing can take that from you. And He alone fills us with the lasting peace that this world can’t understand.
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5. Choose your friends wisely, and strive to be a good friend to others.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)
As believers we can trust the discernment God offers and His help in making decisions. Not every person has our best intention at heart; this is a lesson for all of life. Recognizing unhealthy boundaries or controlling behaviors early on may save us from a difficult road ahead. Finding those who care for and support you, listening and speaking honestly, as well as encouraging your relationship with Christ is so important and can be a lifeline especially in difficult days. It may sound over-simplified, but the best way to make friends, is just to choose to be one. Reaching out to those around us who may need a listening ear, or just to know someone cares, is a powerful way to live every day.
6. Find gratefulness and laughter in every single day.
“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” (Psalm 126:2)
It’s hard sometimes to keep choosing joy when life seems to be pressing us down. It may be hard to even find a reason to laugh or smile when we feel close to tears some days. But there’s always something, somewhere, that we can find humor in. There’s always something we can be grateful for. We may have to look for it, but through our laughter and joy, God wants to lift our burdens and remind us there’s hope still ahead.
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7. It’s OK to reach out for help when you’re struggling.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
It may sound cliché, but it’s a crucial truth to get us through the darkest times. If we’re only looking around at our current situation, or at what everyone else is doing and saying, we’ll soon be sinking fast in worry, fear, and despair. Lifting our eyes up to the One who saves is the only way to live free when you find yourself in the midst of hard struggles. Don’t be entangled with cares and distress. Leave it at His feet and keep your focus on Christ our King. Nothing is too difficult for Him, and when we choose to look up, we’re constantly reminded of where our true strength and help come from.
8. You don’t have to strive to be perfect.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Our culture of constant attachments to technology, social media, and news sources can leave us feeling anything but attached. In fact, we may become more depressed, distant, or detached the more we’re staring at screens. We may find ourselves struggling through feelings of inadequacy or just not feeling we belong. Resist the lies. Stop the unhealthy comparisons. Find freedom in who God has uniquely created you to be! It may not look like anyone else, and really, it isn’t supposed to. Let go of the need to impress, be perfect, or fit the mold of what the world says is acceptable. Find your passion, your voice, your calling through the God who created you with incredible design and huge purpose.
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9. Choose to forgive those who may have hurt you, and choose to forgive yourself.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
If we’ve lived long enough, we probably know what it is to be wronged, to feel hurt, likely from someone we may have cared much about. It’s hard to forgive when we still have deep wounds. And often it doesn’t even seem “right” to forgive when we’ve been hurt. We want to hold on to that resentment a bit longer or try to get back at them. But even when forgiveness doesn’t feel right, it’s always the right thing to do. And it’s a choice — a daily choice — to walk out that journey. It can take some time, but it releases us from the control of what happened to us and sets us on a pathway of freedom into what God has for us ahead. Often the hardest person to forgive is the one looking at us in the mirror. Don’t allow yourself to stay stuck there, move forward in His grace and peace, believing that He is for you.
10. God will never fail you. He gives purpose and hope in all our days.
As believers in Christ, we can hold fast to this promise. God will never waste our pain. He will turn it around for good. Every battle. Every hard place. Every dark time. Every painful storm. He will never allow us to walk through deep struggle without allowing it to bring greater hope and purpose, both in our own lives and through our place in this world. It’s what He does best. He brings beauty and strength, hope and goodness from every mark of darkness and broken day. Our past will not define us. The trial itself will not label us. We are only defined by our Lord who lifts us out of the deep, who brings us through the fire, who takes us straight out of the darkness, into greater purpose and blessing up ahead. Restored. Redeemed. Renewed. Your future awaits.
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