You’ve always known the moment would come. But when one of your kids is ready to graduate from high school, it’s easy to feel caught off guard. Adulthood is looming on the horizon, and you’ve got to prepare your child – and yourself – for when he or she leaves home.

Here’s how you can launch your child into adulthood:

Understand that grief is natural. Whether your child’s next step will be college, a job, or the military, sending him or her off can be one of the hardest tasks you ever tackle, because you’ll naturally miss him or her and have to adjust to profound changes in your life. And letting go of your "baby" again when he or she gets married can bring fresh pain. Go easy on yourself, be honest about your feelings, and pray about them.

Remember that good parents work themselves out of their jobs. Think back to the moment when you celebrated your child’s new life at a dedication or baptism. Just as you pledged to cooperate with God’s plans for your child’s life then, realize that you need to do so now. Recognize that the main goal of your parenting has been to raise kids who are able to live faithful and productive lives on their own one day. Rejoice that you’re close to achieving that goal!

Let God’s promises bring you hope. Read God’s many promises in the Bible, and trust in His unfailing love, unlimited power, and constant presence with you.

Recall God’s faithfulness from the past. Remember other significant times in your child’s life when you’ve had to let go to allow him or her to experience greater maturity – such as starting school, getting a driver’s license, beginning to date, or going on a mission trip. As you think about how God helped you successfully navigate that earlier release point, take heart that He will help you let go again. Thank God for what He has already done, and look forward to His future blessings with a trusting heart.

Don’t burden your child with too much emotion. Accept the intense mix of feelings you may be experiencing now – sorrow, joy, grief, celebration, fear, hope, and more. Feel free to express them fully in prayer and when talking with your spouse or close friends. But be careful not to overwhelm your child who’s leaving home with your emotions; doing so can make him or her feel guilty and start to avoid you.

Don’t try to hide your true feelings from your child, but temper your negative emotions with a positive attitude. Think through specific situations you expect to face in the near future (like helping your child pack for moving out), anticipate how they’ll likely make you feel, and imagine appropriate responses to prepare yourself ahead of time. Make sure your child knows that, no matter how challenging this season is for you, you’re cheering for him or her to succeed.

Don’t burden your child with the wrong dreams. Ask God to help you let go of your own personal agenda for your child’s life and accept – and embrace – His dreams for your child. For example, if you’d long hoped that your child would grow up to become a doctor but he’s more interested in music than medicine, don’t try to manipulate him into fulfilling your desires. Adjust your expectations to reality. Realize that God has given your child a special and unique blend of talents, gifts, abilities, and potential. Cooperate with God to accomplish His best purposes for your child’s life.

Make the best of your child’s last days at home. Have fun with your child who’s preparing to leave home. Ask your child to choose a few activities that he or she would enjoy doing with you; then enjoy them together. Confront all your regrets about what you wish you’d done differently while raising your child, and give those regrets over to God by confessing them in prayer. Then accept God’s forgiveness and ask Him to help you forgive yourself and your child for anything that’s harmed your relationship in the past. Move into the future with no regrets.