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Involved Or Enmeshed?

As parents of adult children, Chris and I have frequently asked the question, “where’s the boundary between being involved and being enmeshed with our children?

I think the picture below is so discussion-worthy. I see parents reaching and guiding…wanting their children to grow up and leave the lattice of family life at home. There are deep roots that have provided stability and nourishment but there also space and freedom for these branches to go out and explore their blue-skyed future.

The funny thing is that when I showed this picture to a friend, she immediately saw unhealthy entanglement.

What do you see?  Where do you think the boundary is that divides involvement and enmeshment? Does it simply boil down to different perspectives? Does it have something to do with the way in which mom and dad were raised? Does this boundary shift with the times or is there a very clear and healthy line drawn between autonomy from and enmeshment with adult children? 

Over the past few weeks, I have initiated many conversations about family dynamics but my observation is that no one can articulate that healthy place that separates being involved and being too involved.  My philosophical friends quote Jonas Salk and tell me that what’s important is that you give your children roots and wings.  I agree with this idea but it’s too vague. My Christian friends will remind me of the “leave and cleave” principle for adult children who are married but what about the increasing number of adult children who are choosing to remain single? I’ve observed parents who have given their single, adult children complete freedom to stay at home as long as they want while others people are anticipating and making plans for their new pace of life as empty-nesters, whether their children are single or not.

I believe that our children belong to God. They are not given to us to control but to  teach, model, encourage, discipline, nurture, pray for and prepare. We want our children to think bigger and reach further than the front door of our house.

Chris and I are able to love them and release them BECAUSE we trust our heavenly Father who loves them more than we do.

Deuteronomy 32.4 says, He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. NIV

We do not want to interfere with God’s plan for our adult children. We want to be involved in their lives but more than that, we want them to welcome God’s involvement in their lives – and that can’t happen if we’re holding onto them too tightly. We want our children to unquestionably experience and yearn for God’s providing, directing and loving hand…because one day, we won’t be here but He will.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. Deuteronomy 7.9 NIV

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  1. leigh

    You touch me where i live….it is so very hard to let go and let GOD. i know that sounds rather cliche’, but i sometimes feel like the raccoon holding on tightly to the food through the bars of the cage…letting go is the ONLY thing that will free me, and teach me to trust that my kiddos will stand before a God who loves them so much more than i could ever comprehend~

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