Releasing Cords of Attachment
Leaving and releasing is about cutting three cords that connect parent and child: dependence, allegiance, and expectations.
Cords of dependence on you as a parent need to be cut so your child and their spouse can appropriately depend on the Lord and on each other. You are no longer the primary support system in any way—financially, emotionally, or spiritually. If they are still dependent on you, it will weaken their need for each other and/or their need for God, and it will slow the process of them stepping into their God-given roles as husband and wife.
Just as the child’s dependence needs to shift from parent to spouse, allegiance also needs to change. Allegiance is loyalty or devotion. Your son’s or daughter’s number one priority is no longer you and your family; it is their spouse and their newly established family. Be careful not to put them in any precarious situation where they may feel like they have to choose between their old family and their new one. This would be a no-win situation.
In their new marriage, your child will need to be aware of and honor his or her spouse’s hopes, desires, and expectations. At the same time, it will be normal and natural for you to have expectations because of the history you have with your child. Keep in mind that as they are forming a new family, they are navigating a lot of potentially stressful changes necessitating many choices. To ensure healthy relationships with your child and their spouse, learn to express your desires without demanding, and do not show or communicate disappointment if your desires aren’t met. Disappointment will push them away. Believe the best in them, and trust that they are making the most appropriate choice for their family.
What does releasing your children actually look like?
-Surrendering your children from the security of your home into God’s care and keeping
-Giving them the gift of freedom to make mistakes and grow from them
-Offering unconditional love because it reflects God’s heart
-Remembering that your child was God’s child first
-Allowing God to form them into His likeness, not yours
-Supporting their choices, including their choice of a spouse
-Encouraging them because your encouragement is weighty
-Recognizing that it is more important to be loving than to be right
Specific Areas of Releasing
Your child needs to be released to leave on all levels, including logistically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually, the couple can bond to each other and become one in every way. Let’s look more specifically at these.
Navigating tasks and decisions of their lives
Your children’s schedules, time, and decisions are their responsibility, and they will make mistakes. They may not consult you anymore. Your son or daughter and their spouse may choose to do things differently than you do or than your family did. This may be in how they spend money, the career paths they choose, where they decide to live, or even how they parent their children. We encourage parents not to interfere or offer unsolicited advice. Keep your wisdom to yourself unless they ask for it. Your unsolicited advice can put your child in a bind—whether to please you or determine their own way. It can be very difficult to not give advice when you feel they are making a big mistake. However, mistakes can be some of the best tools used by God for instruction and for their maturity.
Logistically: Navigating the tasks, decisions, and chaos of life
Leaving becomes most apparent in respect to family traditions and holidays. Please be careful not to put your family traditions as demands on their new lives. Again, you can communicate your desire, but do not be offended if they choose differently. This can undermine their ability to establish new traditions and become their own family unit. If you communicate through a demand or expectation, you set your child up to have to choose between their spouse and you, and you tempt your child to make a decision out of obligation or guilt, which are not healthy motivators; these situations may easily result in resentment toward you.
It’s also noteworthy that as your son or daughter are establishing their own family traditions, they are also navigating another whole family—their spouse’s. This can cause the temptation to compare time and money spent between families, creating a competition. These measurement games typically leave one feeling in deficit, leading to disappointment. Embrace an abundance mindset, not a scarcity mindset. Be thankful for the time you get to spend with them and the relationship you have. They will sense your grateful approach, and it will impact your relationship in positive ways.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” In leaving, the new couple needs to seek God with how they spend their time, be unified as husband and wife in their decision, and effectively and kindly communicate that to you. It should be your goal to foster a trusting, safe relationship with them in which they will be free to do so.
Financial: Employing God’s financial gifts as Kingdom stewards
God owns all resources. He is the provider for your son or daughter’s marriage and He asks them to be good stewards of His gifts. Their standard of living is not a surprise to God since it is given directly by Him. This standard will shape what they do and how they will trust Him to provide, both now and in the future. Jesus reminds, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Your child’s new marriage needs to be directed to seek God first rather than looking to you for provision.
Parents may struggle with allowing their children to live below the standard of living they have become accustomed to. Their standard of living may not be what they are accustomed to or what you would desire for them. However, your child and their spouse need to live within the means the Lord is providing for them and to make their own decisions about finances, and they need to learn to rely on God and each other to navigate their financial lives.
When parents rescue or contribute financially, they are undermining the development of trust in the new spouses and God, weakening the establishment of leadership, and impairing a couple’s ability to make decisions and learning from them. Also, Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Money changes relationships, so be cautious and wise about financially helping your son or daughter after their marriage
Emotional: Relating, communicating, and supporting each other through life
As stated earlier, you are no longer your child’s primary support system. Their spouse is and should be their leading source of emotional support. We realize that this can be difficult for everyone involved, yet it is important to the formation of their marriage. If your son or daughter approaches you with a marital concern, we encourage you to ask if their spouse knows they are talking with you. If not, please ask them to talk with them first. If they are aware, please encourage them to meet together as a couple with you. It is always best when you view their marriage as the top priority rather than your son’s or daughter’s individual situation.
It’s a godly desire to support and love your children well. Yet, when parents step in too quickly, offer space for son or daughter to share more with you than with their spouse, or extend wisdom to one and not the couple together, it can undermine and weaken their relationship and cause undue tension. Jesus says in Matthew 19:6, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” It will take grace and restraint not to unintentionally or subtly separate your son or daughter’s new marriage by getting in the middle or offering support they should be getting from their spouse, but it will be worth every effort you make.
Spiritual: Cultivating and encouraging a relationship with God, the tuning fork
Let’s use the analogy of a tuning fork and two musical instruments for a picture of marriage. Suppose two out-of-tune instruments need to be tuned for a concert. If the musicians tried to tune them to one another, they would end up with two instruments that sounded the same yet were both out of tune. To have two concert-ready instruments, the musicians need to tune them both to a tuning fork. In the same way, if a couple tries to maintain their marriage by tuning to each other or to someone else, they will be going through life out of tune, maybe even unaware of it. In a covenant marriage, the husband and wife need to be joined first and foremost to the Lord, who is the guarantor to keep their marriage on His path as one flesh. Only then can a marriage sing the beautiful music that God intended for them to sing in their families and in their world.
If parents get too involved in their son or daughter’s marriage, they will be acting as the tuning fork. Parents often do not understand the pull and influence they have on their children. Please encourage your son or daughter and their spouse to seek counsel from the Lord first and foremost. Also encourage them to establish godly relationships with other adults. As your role is changing, they may still need an unbiased, wiser couple to help them navigate some of their decisions and difficulties.
When they make a decision that doesn’t make sense to you, please believe the best in them and trust that they have sought the Lord. Be their cheerleaders, not their investigators. Ask how you can support and pray for them.
If you notice something in their life or marriage that seems off course, first of all take time to pray and process (with your spouse if you are married) whether your difference is founded in preference/personal opinion or in biblical truth. Wisdom and biblical truth come from God. As James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” If after prayerfully consideration, you still feel it is necessary and important to address the issue, ask for permission and always approach them as a couple. Encourage your child and their spouse to seek God regarding the issue rather than trying to persuade them.