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Working through family differences with wisdom

Advice & Opinion
By Kathryn Knight

Images: Deposit Photo

There is a sad phenomena happening in America today, especially in conservative Christian families. Adult children are verbally attacking their parents and often cutting ties with them. Most of these young adults were not raised in an abusive situation – they just don’t like their parents’ traditional ideas about politics, children, families, the Bible or God. What a tragedy to cut off family ties because of different preferences and perspectives.

In the past, when generations did not agree on politics, family life, careers, etc., they agreed to disagree without cutting off family members. But today, it seems that the reaction to a disagreement is to cut ties or worse – attack the “offender” on social media. I’d like to address three stages of life with thoughts on how to maintain civil — and hopefully, strong — family ties.

  • Parents with “Distant” Adult Children. What do you do if your adult child decides to shun you and cut ties? First, pray. Ask God to reveal any sin for which you need to ask for forgiveness. Then genuinely ask your adult children for forgiveness. Maybe you were too strict or did not listen to their opinions. Listen to their grievances now. Know that the rules you put in place may have not been understood by your kids and you need to allow them to tell you that without getting defensive. Your adult kids are, after all, adults and have the right to their own opinions and to respectfully disagree with you. Assure your adult children that you want to continue to have a relationship with them and their families.
  • Adult Children With Less Than Perfect Parents. Blaming your parents is a big problem in today’s culture. Your parents (with a very few psychotic exceptions) raised you with rules in place to help you reach adulthood mentally, physically and spiritually intact. No parent who is truly seeking God sets out to destroy their own children. Remember that your parents are not perfect, but neither are you now — nor will you ever be — the perfect parent. Extend grace to to your parents. The Bible is clear that we are all supposed to honor our parents (Ex 20:12, Pr. 23:22, Col 3:20; Eph. 6;1-3). To not do so is to make a conscious decision to disobey God. Ways to honor parents with whom you do not see eye-to-eye include being kind, talking civilly, sending cards, calling or visiting on holidays, helping them to know your kids. Find things that they did well when you were growing up and thank them. Maybe you have a love for reading and history, perfect grammar or excellent math skills; maybe you can grow a garden or work on a car. Your parents taught you a lot of things for which you can be grateful. Extend grace to your parents who sacrificed a lot to raise you and to help you grow in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man (Deut. 11:19, 1 Sam. 2:26, Ps 127:3-5, Pr. 22:6, 3 John 1:4).
  • Parents with Children at Home. If you still have kids at home, what can you do now to encourage lifelong family ties? Build relationships. Explain why you as parents have chosen to do or not do certain things.  We used the question “does (fill in the blank) honor God?” a lot when our kiddos were small. We also had a process called an appeal. If there was new information, our kids were free to ask to make an appeal. Whining and arguing were not allowed, but appeals were. If the child had a legitimate grievance or reason, we would reconsider the ruling we had made. Don’t let your kids appeal every decision, but do listen, and you will hear what’s on their heart and what is important to them. In hindsight, I should have listened a lot more. You can learn a lot from their  different perspectives.

Pop culture says that parents who have finished raising kids are old-fashioned, even backward and that not having a relationship with them will be better than doing the hard work of getting along. But guess what? When I was a young mom, culture told me that my parents’ ideas weren’t cool, that they were old-fashioned and out-of-date. It’s interesting to note that this has been a problem for generations.

We all said, “I’ll never do that when I’m a parent,” when we were growing up, and that’s okay, because when you do grow up, you and your spouse need to parent as God leads you. Each generation can learn from their own upbringing and current parenting experiences to be better parents than their parents were. Who would not want to improve on the parenting style modeled for you? 

Family is the first institution in the Bible. It is so very important to God. He chose your parents for you, and He chose the kids you’ll have. Whether you are a new parent or a seasoned grandparent, remember that your family of origin cannot be replaced by a “found family”. Young adults, choose to honor your parents; older parents, choose to listen to your kids and to help your adult kids raise their children how they see fit. Every generation will benefit from keeping in touch with each other and creating intergenerational ties.


The opinions in this article are specific to its author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire Counter Culture Mom team.




Kathryn Knight, EdD, has homeschooled for over a quarter of a century. Four of her five girls have graduated and Kathryn is loving the new adventure of homeschool with an “only” child. She loves teaching all subjects, especially history, and has made an art of educating her kids with hands-on projects, re-enactments and travel.

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