Thoughts About the Transition From Child to Adult

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When does a child make the transition from childhood to adulthood? The common answer to that question has changed through the centuries. In America the legal age of adulthood was once twenty-one. Today most people seem to think of eighteen as the transition point. I think that is a bit young.

The switch to eighteen came during the Vietnam War in the 1970s. It’s not that people changed the laws because they made a conscious decision that children think like adults when they are eighteen. They just felt guilty for drafting eighteen-year-olds and sending them to fight in a horrible war when they couldn’t even vote yet. Doctors know that eighteen years old isn’t an automatic indication of adulthood. Children can continue to see their pediatricians until they are twenty-one. Car rental companies often limit car rentals to people twenty-five and over. Think about how insurance companies view eighteen-year-olds.

I often think of God’s decision about twenty-year-olds in Numbers 32:11 (NASB): “None of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob; for they did not follow Me fully.” God made this pronouncement because most of the Israelites did not trust God to help them conquer the Promised Land after Moses led them from Egypt to Canaan. God made them wander in the wilderness until all the men who had been twenty and older when they first arrived at the border of the Promised Land had died. The two exceptions were Joshua and Caleb, who did believe that God would make them successful. The book of Numbers often mentions people who are twenty years old and upward as being “able to go out to war.” I remember myself from eighteen to twenty, and I’ve been a parent of children who were those ages. Twenty is a great benchmark.

So, when you are being careful to preserve your children’s childhoods, look ahead to their transition time to adulthood, too. Relax. You may be able to chill out a little and not feel so much pressure, realizing you can enjoy their childhoods a bit longer than you thought. Maybe you have longer to teach and to instill the values you hold close to your heart. Of course, you must have your children’s hearts long before they turn eighteen, so they will continue to hear your wisdom when the world tells them they are adults.

God told the Israelites, “Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father” (Leviticus 19:3). Honoring our parents is a lifetime commitment. Encouraging, teaching, and supporting our children is, too. I’m thankful that my mother has never stopped doing that for me.

Give me your heart, my son,
And let your eyes delight in my ways.
Proverbs 23:26, NASB

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