I’ve lived in my husband’s country for twelve years, and I’ve loved witnessing how adult children honor their parents here. I’ve observed adult children respecting, valuing and caring for their parents as they spend time with them and help them practically. I’m sure these parents weren’t perfect, and I’m sure that their children would have liked some aspects of their childhood to be different, but this hasn’t stopped them from showing their parents honor.
I love my parents, and I’m thankful for them, yet I’m very aware that I don’t show them love in the way I could, and should. While I don’t think I dishonor my parents (or at least I hope I don’t), I know I don’t honor them like I could. The bible instructs us to honor our parents. It is one of the ten commandments (Exodus 20v12 and Deuteronomy 5v16), and Paul quoted this verse when discussing how children and parents should relate to each other in his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6v2-3). Jesus also challenged the Pharisees when they failed to keep this command (Matthew 15v3-6 and Mark 7v8-13).
Not honoring our parents can creep up gradually, and it is easy to be unaware that we’re neglecting this biblical instruction especially if it is not always evident in our society. Adults tend to have their focus on their spouse, children and careers however we can often focus so much on these relationships that our parents can get sidelined. While it’s natural that the relationship with our parents will change as we get older and become independent of them, we are still instructed to honor them. We go from being so dependent on them as children to being able to function in life without them, and ways of honoring them will vary depending on our stage of life, e.g. depending on whether we’re living under their roof, have our own children and if our parents are Christians. Relationships with our parents may not always be easy, and we are likely to have differences with them at times, but they should still be honored, and this will require action (1 Timothy 5v4&8). It’s not enough to simply not neglect them. Below are ideas for honoring our parents that I have gleaned from seeing it in action around me in my adopted country. I hope that by applying these, our relationships with our parents (and parents-in-law) will strengthen.
1) Be thankful for them.
Don’t take them for granted, but appreciate them instead. Be grateful for them, and express your gratitude to them for what they’ve done and for what they continue to do for you. If they are Christians thank them for their prayers and share with them how God is answering those prayers.
Appreciate what they did for us as children (I didn’t realize what my parents did for me until I had my own children) as they often raised us in harder circumstances than what we are currently in.
2) Don’t be too busy for them.
It’s easy for parents of adult children to feel either sidelined, or used for what they can provide (often childcare). Make proper time to see them and ensure they feel valued and included. Visit them, and if they live in a different country, phone them regularly. Don’t be too busy that you don’t have time to spend in proper conversation with them, and don’t be quick to dismiss their advice as it may be just what you need to hear. Don’t take advantage of them and don’t act like they’re an inconvenience. Let them be a part of your life, and your children’s lives and ensure they don’t get pushed out or side-lined.
3) Know what is going on in their lives.
Communicate often and communicate well with them. Be a good listener, and take an interest in them. Remember what they are dealing with in their lives and ask them about it. Don’t let all your interactions be self-focused and one-sided. Even though you are probably at a busier stage than they are, they are likely to still have concerns that they would like to discuss and get support with (e.g. health matters).
4) Be careful how you talk to them, and about them.
Talk to them respectfully, listen properly to them, and don’t dismiss what they say. Honor them with your words. Be careful how you speak to them, and be careful how you speak about them. If there is a need to talk about them in a way that could come across negatively, then be very careful who you speak to about them in this way. Let things go and bear with them as they age.
5) Help them practically.
Look after them, care for them, and make sure they can access what they need. Don’t leave it to your siblings. Help them with aspects of life that their generation often struggles with, e.g. technology issues. Remember Mother’s and Father’s Day, birthdays and anniversaries. Think about how you would like to be treated by your children when you are older and treat your parents the same way.
6) Pray for them.
I pray for my children daily, ashamedly I don’t pray for my parents anywhere near that frequently. Ensure you pray for them regularly, including praying for aspects specific to them as they age, e.g. their health, independence, and walk with God. Pray for your relationship with them too. Repent of times when you haven’t honored them as you should and ask for God’s wisdom in making your relationship with your parents the best it can be.