The Secrets of Communicating with Adult Children

Many of the elders had one piece of advice about getting along with one’s adult children: Don’t interfere in their lives, and wait for them to come to you for advice. But what when they do ask your opinion, what are some good ways to communicate?

Tom, 82, has warm and supportive relationships with his three middle-aged sons. He recognizes that sometimes one is called upon to give advice to adult children; indeed, they ask for it. A problem, of course, is that parents are naturally invested in their children, and it is difficult for them to step outside of their own needs to objectively evaluate the choices their child must make.

Tom’s advice: Take the “I” out of the conversation:

Yeah, the big advice is always be open minded. Forget the business of ‘I’ centered and put the focus on ‘you’ centered. The son that you’re talking to and who has issues that he wants to discuss and forget the ‘I’, or at least put the I in the background so that at least he understands that he’s getting the benefit of your wisdom. You, who can govern how much ‘I’ to project, can inject information or guidance when it’s appropriate, not to dominate the conversation but to augment what the son wants to say. I think it’s a delicate balance of diplomacy among family members. I’ve not always done well.

Grace, 75, found that her enjoyment of her children increased as they grew older and became adults; it was the “pay-off” for more difficult earlier years.

I think by the time my kids were a little bit older and they were able to accept their parents for who they were, as I was with my mother, then it was great. I have enjoyed my children as adults so much, so, so much, and it’s something no one ever said to me. They always would say when the kids were young, “Oh, these are the wonderful years, these are the best years.” They were lovely years, but there is something just as lovely or more lovely when they are adults and you could talk to them as another human being. To know your children as adults is great.

She shares her thoughts with her kids, but accepts that her advice may be turned aside.

Well, there again, I think – don’t be too critical. In fact, don’t be critical at all. Accept them, accept what they’re doing. But I for example just wrote my daughter giving her some financial advice, and said, “I’m giving this to you with love not with criticism,” because she just does such stupid things financially. So – and she will read it, and maybe she’ll do it and maybe she won’t, but I’m perfectly willing to accept it that way.

8 thoughts on “The Secrets of Communicating with Adult Children

  1. Most articles i read cover the communication or lack of expressing how adult children might conduct their lives.
    what is the challenge is that my adult child thinks he needs to run my life. Is continually making me wrong for anything I do or say. Even my personality and choice of friends is up for comment. How does one get out of that situation without cutting off the relationship?

  2. Sandra, if you figure this out please let me know. I have an adult daughter just like your son with the exception of the friends. My opinions and personal taste are under criticism. I just don’t know how to talk to her.

  3. Please pass alone that answer. My Adult son (only child) is not very respectful, patience or appreciates what I do for him. I’m at the point of not even wanting to talk to him. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks Brenda

  4. Likewise. I have always respected my children’s opinions and their decisions in their own lives. Now, they are critical of me regarding what I do, what I say, and even telling me off if they think I’m feeling upset, even if I don’t say or do anything. When I try to talk to them about this, they hang up on me and punish me for weeks or months by not speaking to me. Very painful. I have nobody to talk to about this because I don’t want to make my children look bad to people who know them.

  5. Wow, in a way glad this is common. I think adult children are actually very very insecure and stressed. They want to believe they know more than the older generation, we were told the same thing by the media back in our day, let’s face it. So, they lash out at the only people they know can’t leave them. But man, it hurts. I think only time will make them see how awful it is. Oh course, we may be dead by then!

  6. Wow, I really needed to read what you other parents have commented here. I am having the worst time with my 3- 20-somethings who have decided they don’t have to respect us at all. They are now rude, dismissive & plain mean using vulgar phrases to describe us…they were not this bad growing up!!
    All this after we gave them money, schl loans & groceries! I know we had some anger issues while raising them but I thought things would get better not worse. I wasn’t anywhere NEAR as rude to my mom but guess I’m getting paid back. Their dad & I have been thru SO MUCH. I don’t even want to be around them anymore but it hurts so bad cause I love them. HELP!

  7. When my daughter was in jr. high, she went out for track. She was overweight and out of shape. When I picked her up after the first practice, I asked how she did. She said not very well. My reply haunts me to this day…I said ‘what did you expect?’ She heard , although I didn’t say it, was you are too fat . I have apologized. Tried saying it wasn’t what I meant. Since that day she has held me at arms length. We are civil to each other. I try to reach out. This momma’s heart hurts.

  8. I have four children in their 30s who take turns cutting me out of their lives completely. I help them a lot, treat them with great respect, and normally get along with them, but periodically they take offense at something and cut me off completely. My son did not speak to me or have anything to do with me for 3 1.2 years after my husband and I divorced. Now he is speaking to me but blames me for all of the problems in his life, which are many.

    Any suggestions? I am practicing unconditional love and working on complete forgiveness of all of my children. Cannot tell my son that the things he think happened did not because he gets very angry and tells me I am delusional or a liar.

    I really try to treat them with respect and to refrain from giving advice. Any advice?

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