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Include Your Children in Life-Changing Decisions

God is working in their lives too
Include Your Children in Life-Changing Decisions

Standing on the driveway with my teenage daughter, we watch silently as her childhood bed and miniature table and chairs, packed in the back of a truck, pull away and drive down the street, around the corner, and onto the highway. Words aren’t necessary. We’ve resigned ourselves to the new reality.

All our possessions and keepsakes are now negotiable. We’re moving to England, not just the next state.

Rearranging the empty place in her room where the bed was once used as a couch for friends to congregate, her Dad interrupts, “What are we going to do with all these pillows?” Mounds of decorative pillows in an array of shapes, sizes, and colors cover the carpet, displaced.

“Which ones would you like to use in your dorm room and which ones would you like to visit?” I ask my daughter with slight hesitation. This season presents the biggest change in her 18 years of life. I’m attempting to balance reality with sensitivity.

Not only will she face new challenges as a college student without her parents nearby, but home will be across the Atlantic.

While this is our first international relocation as a ministry family, it’s not the first time we’ve walked the tightrope of our life-changing decisions with our children. This is our ninth move and the third for our children. The decision to leave every place we live requires the same amount of conviction that brought us there in the first place.

When my husband and I say yes to radical life change, we believe God has something important in the circumstances for them also. And we’ve learned to listen to our children differently through seasons of transition.

Random Conversations May Be Echoes of Confirmation

Before divulging details of potential change, we allow the unknowns to simmer while listening to what bubbles to the surface through our children. A keen attentiveness to their thoughts in the context of potential change often leads to clarity in discernment. Phrases like “I wish we could live somewhere different” or “I want to experience going to school in a different culture” suddenly don’t seem like random or out-of-the-blue dinner conversation. They add flavor to the soup of transition.

Before we told our kids about a possible move to London, my son was passing the time after school by researching universities and places to live in Europe. One evening over hamburgers, he remarked, “I wish I could hop on a boat, sail to Europe, and finish high school in a different culture.” I nearly fainted. But I was smiling on the inside.

God will plant seeds of desire in the hearts of our children that speak of destiny. They are unnoticeable to them in childhood but offer hints of confirmation for us as parents. Pay attention to what they are saying through the lens of eternity.

Include Your Kids in the Details, Even if They Seem Insignificant

On family road trips we often revisit the same conversation, beginning with the question “If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?” Their responses are revealing. Mostly, the fun atmosphere creates an opportunity to dream beyond the parameters of the familiar and expected.

We create a similar scenario in the midst of transition by asking questions: “If you could live in an apartment, high rise, or house, which one would you choose?” or “How would you decorate your new home if you could start over?” We aren’t fairies granting their every wish but parents winnowing the places that speak to unspoken longings.

In response to those questions, my son used the words simple, small, and minimalist in his answers. All were hints that God was preparing him for downsizing as we make our new home in the heart of London.

Prepare to Be Wrong about Your Assumptions

Upon full disclosure about our international adventure, we held concern about our daughter’s reaction as an upcoming freshman in college. Beforehand, my husband and I discussed an option we deemed appropriate given the situation, agreeing that we would communicate acceptance about a postponement to college if she felt more comfortable waiting.

The first question out of her mouth after sharing the news? “Can I take the flat screen television and the coffee maker with me for my dorm room? You won’t be able to use any of our electronic devices in London.”

We can make wrong assumptions about the reactions of our children to life-changing decisions, basing them on our own fears and past experiences.

“I’ve never once felt abandoned by my parents,” she remarked to a friend, in a conversation I happened to overhear at a party.

While transitions are rarely perfect and often full of loss and hardship, we become more hopeful and resilient through adversity. God uses the uncomfortable place of change to shape our identity and prepare us for the future. Having an empathetic, listening heart that engages freely lends courage to our children for the journey no matter what age, situation, or experience.

That’s why silence seemed appropriate as we watched decades of memories drive down the street and ultimately to other children’s bedrooms. Sometimes whitespace is exactly what is needed while standing on the precipice of adventure. As parents, we nurture our children toward future calling and trust God with the details.

What are some of the practical ways you include your children in transitions?

Shelly Miller is a writer, photographer, clergy wife, mother of two teens, and leadership coach. She enjoys writing stories that make people think differently about life, helping women discover their calling and the luxury of being inspired by other cultures. You can read more of her stories on her blog, Redemption’s Beauty, and connect on Facebook and Twitter.

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