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How to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Adult Children

There are often struggles between parents and children that go beyond the childhood years. As children grow up the dynamic changes which can cause struggles over communication, values, expectations and sometimes even how to get along. Although viewpoints can differ, parents and children have much more in common that they have differences. Here are some tips to help you improve your relationship.

Treat Them Like an Adult. Do you have an adult child or an adult who is your child? By definition, a child is dependent on their parent(s) for their physical, emotional, relational and financial needs. An adult is independent from their parent(s) and is self-sufficient, has their own supportive and caring community around them to help. A parent can be part of that community, but it does not work well for a parent to be the primary source of life for them. By treating your child as an adult, it will move them into that independent self-sufficient individual you dreamed about when they were young.

See Life Through Their Eyes. Its sometimes hard to see children as a separate entity even after they are grown. Parents are often reluctant to learning about their children’s adults’ lives, values, culture, and interests because it is not familiar and comfortable for them. Parents will sometimes just retreat to talking about their own activities because it feels safer, but it cuts off connection. Unless it is harmful material that is just toxic, think about it as seeing the world through their eyes and ask about what they do for fun and meaning which conveys how much you are interested in them and love them.

Respect their Choices. We have all been young and have made mistakes along the way. Often when people look back, they realise that some of the best parts of life come from screwing up. Parents feel they need to protect their children from mistakes and hurts. Life is about choices. Your child needs to know that their life choices, even if you disagree, are respected as their own choices. This is one of the hallmarks of being an adult. You may not agree with the choice but understanding that it is their decision will increase the respect. There is nothing wrong with disagreement, and often good things happen when those conversations can be had respectfully. But keep it respectful. Remember how you felt when you were a young.

Only Provide Requested Advice. Ever since your child was a baby in your arms you have wanted to protect and love them. This includes teaching them as they grew and providing helpful advice along the way. Now you are looking at the eyes of an adult who might make the wrong decision. You want to provide advice that will stop mistakes in relationships, finance and other areas of life. However, unsolicited advice is generally not accepted or viewed as helpful. The person is more concerned about feeling put down or controlled, than whatever you want to say to them. And saying “I’m just trying to help” just adds fuel. They know you love them, but they sometimes just need a listening ear. Ask the question: Do you need to me to listen or are you open to some advice? If they say OK, give it. If not, listen and bite your tongue. If it is too hard then change the topic. This does not apply to life-or-death situations but most things in life are not life threatening.

Encourage Them to Build their Own Resources. Some adults are on the other end of the spectrum. They have not cut the dependency cord: emotionally, relationally, or financially. They go to their parents to emotionally regulate, be their best friend and supplement their income deficits. This continues to maintain child dependency and slows the transformation to adulthood. Suggest to them to find other friends who will help them in these areas and encourage autonomy and self-sufficiency. In serious cases, a parent may have to seek professional help to learn healthy ways to encourage appropriate boundaries.

See Their Strength. No one wants to see their child struggle especially as an adult. But struggle is how we grow and are empowered. So don’t view them as fragile and easily breakable people. Let them fail, learn lessons, and find support. You can certainly be part of that support to an extent. But view them and behave with them as they are: resilient and intelligent people who are finding their way.

You can have a great relationship with your children who are adults. Believe in them and in yourself. Find ways to reengage in the relationship and build the bond.


Registered Psychotherapist

HELPPS Psychotherapy Services

519-601-HELP (4357)

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