God’s Goodness in Parenting Transitions: From High School to College

Several years ago, I was teaching on Deuteronomy 33, Moses’ last words to Israel before the leadership is passed onto Joshua. By way of illustration, I explained that Moses’ passion for covering all the important things is what I imagined I would say when dropping my kid off at college for the first time. 

One dear woman in my Bible study spoke up: “Honey, you need to say all the things before the dorm room drop off. That will not be the time to cover the important topics in life!”

Admittedly, I had no idea what I was actually talking about, seeing that my oldest was barely in high school, but now I get it. We dropped off my oldest last fall, and in the wave of emotions, the frenzy of a quick move-in, and the packed schedule of freshman orientation, there was little time to review all the important lessons I desperately wanted her to remember. In fact, good-bye was rather short and sweet, and instead of giving the farewell speech I envisioned, I spewed out a few quick remarks: “I love you. Go to church and wash your sheets.”  

Good grief.

This is not an article on “how to handle the transition from high school to college” because the reality is, there is no “right” or “wrong” way, and I’m certainly no expert. Instead, I want to encourage you by admitting that that, yes, this can be a difficult transition, but to also say with full confidence that God is good in the midst of it. Here are four truths about Jesus that serve as tangible reminders of His goodness as we watch our kids leave the nest and begin to fly.

Jesus is Steady

We can fully and wholeheartedly lean into Jesus when facing both the joys and anxieties of watching our children step into adulthood. For some, the worry is whether a child will hold fast to her faith; for others, the concern is whether or not he will flourish or fail. The joys are usually intertwined in these fears. It’s truly beautiful to see a child grow and mature and contribute to society, but it’s equally challenging to let them go.

When the waves of worry begin to feel overbearing, hold fast to Jesus. In the changes and transitions we face as parents, Christ is our sure and steady anchor (Hebrews 6:19). Lean into Him with your worries and hold none of them back. He knows. Jesus knows the desires of your heart, and He knows the deepest angst. Go to Him and give thanks to the One who knows what it is to give the ultimate sacrifice of His Son for us.

Jesus Gifted Us His Church

When preparing to drop off my daughter, a woman from our church who has been through this stage three times over sent a text which read, “Call me if you want to talk after you drop her off. It can be tough.” After our good-byes with my daughter, my husband and I felt alright. We went out to dinner, celebrated the launch of our first, and admittedly, I wondered if something was wrong with me because I didn’t feel overly emotional.

And then we got home. Her car was not in the driveway, and her room was emptied of many belongings. That’s when it hit me, and that’s when I used that call offered by my friend.

The church is a gift to you from Jesus, and this precious body is filled with all ages and stages of life. Take advantage of gathering advice and support from those who have walked through this transition before. I had no idea it could be so emotional, but several women did, and they faithfully checked in during that first week. Proverbs 27:9 reminds us that, “The sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” Seek out someone in your church body who has walked the road before you, and then listen, lean in, and allow these souls to love on you during this change in parenting.  

Jesus Works Through Trials

It can be tempting to try and fix all our children’s troubles when they transition into early adulthood. We knew one college student who failed a class because he repeatedly slept through it. The same unhealthy cycle continued into the next semester, so his parents began calling him every morning for the remainder of college to ensure he was up and going. The problem is that the student never learned from his mistake.

Proverbs 26:11-12 says, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.”

It’s not necessarily a verse I have hanging on my fridge, but the point is quite powerful, and the words are intended to make us cringe. A person who does not learn from their mistakes is like a dog who repeatedly returns to his vomit. It’s not good; it’s not healthy. And the only way they really learn is by figuring out how to navigate through the challenges.

When seeing my child experience difficulty, it can be gut-wrenching, but I’m reminded that my own faith grew deepest in life’s greatest trials. Pastor and writer, Scott Sauls, recently wrote a beautiful article titled, “When Faith Feels Like Defeat.” Sauls concludes with these poignant words:

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Jesus Writes the Story

Beautiful people exist because Jesus writes our stories. Each story is uniquely and purposefully penned. Enjoy your young adult and be encouraged as the pages turn and new chapters unfold.

Be in touch to hear about daily stories, but don’t be overbearing. When they’re younger, much of our rearing is focused on guiding and disciplining. When we launch them into adulthood, they are desperate to be treated as such, and while there is much growing ahead, we have the opportunity to enjoy the relationship in a new and beautiful way. Delight in learning more about your child’s gifts, encourage them, applaud “adulting” milestones, and be available to listen.

The goal in conversations with these young adults is to enhance our relationship with them, so prayerfully consider what you do and do not admonish at this age. Are they in a place where it’s helpful to push questions like, “Did you go to church today?” or will that feel heavy handed causing a rift in your relationship? Trust the Lord to guide your words, and trust that He loves them more than you do. While their story will be filled with joys as well as trials and mistakes, it’s perfectly written by their creator.

Below is a prayer I wrote last year in anticipation of moving our eldest from high school to college. May the Lord bless you, mom and dad, in this transition, and bless our children as they grow in knowledge and in truth.

Heavenly Father,

We commit our children to you knowing that you love them more than we ever could. We ask that you provide for them wisdom, guidance, and protection, and above all, we pray that you would mold these students to be more like Christ. Bend their wills toward yours as they wrestle through the unknown. Cause them to fully and completely trust you when plans are shifted and changed, and strengthen their mind, body and spirit when they grow weary in the race. Help these students to persevere through difficulty and give them joy in their endeavors. We trust that you are uniquely working in and through this generation; give us a spirit of anticipation as we watch their story unfold. Amen.


Katie is a writer, teacher, and speaker. She is married to Chris, a PCA pastor at Trinity church in St. Louis, MO, and is a mother to three wonderful kids. Katie works as the Director of Music Ministries and Special Events at Trinity and writes for several Christian ministries and organizations. She received her Master of Arts in Theology from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. More information can be found on her website at www.katiepolski.com

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