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.

65 thoughts on “The Secrets of Communicating with Adult Children

  1. Hi Everyone,
    I’m in the same boat and it is so very painful. My son who is now 26, married with my first 4 mo. old grandson, has stopped talking to me. I sent gifts for Christmas, knowing I probably would hear nothing, and I did not. It hurt terribly.

    I share your hurt, your tears, shame, guilt and SHOCK that this is the current situation. I don’t see this changing anytime soon and have to come to grips with the reality of not knowing my Grandson and not having a relationship with my grown son.

    I am firmly dedicated to moving through this hurt as best as possible. I realize that I have to let go and detach mentally to heal. But I can do it only through the grace of God.

    My daughter 29, has also been treated badly by her brother and his wife. She is wounded as well and working through her hurt. In one conversation after Christmas she said “Mom, you can keep sending gifts, expecting perhaps an acknowledgement…..but you are keeping yourself in this suspended state of anxiety and hurt. You might want to just stop and move on…they don’t care about your gifts”

    I think this was point on good advice for me. I am the only person caring in the relationship. Rejection from your child is horrible, but you cannot let it wreck your life. God would not want that.

    Even though it is your child, you just have to realize that they are a child no longer and are on their on journey. Forgive them, Pray for them and wish them well.

    God will help us all. Let’s all pray for each other for wisdom, grace and peace.

  2. I have a 27-year-old daughter who always calls me sometimes daily for advice or talks about things going on with her just to hear my response. When she doesn’t get the response she wants she snaps verbally and there goes the neighborhood. At this point, I can’t get a word in and can’t get her to calm down. Sometimes, I listen to the verbal abuse and sometimes I hang up the phone. This year, I vowed to stop giving her advice and avoid any conversation that will cause a verbal outburst. I make no response what so ever and now hear attitude in her voice and she gets off the phone. I am doing what I should have done with her years ago, showing tough love. I have my life to live and can’t be made to feel I have done something wrong or feel anxious because of what I’ve expressed. I said a prayer last night for her and always praying that she will rely on God, not me and see God working in her life. Some adult children make you feel like walking away from them and not look back.

  3. Showing hurt ,jumping to attention and yearning for them to love you come on guys
    You need to live your life get busy once they realise your independent and happy they will respect you
    They feed off you they need to grow up and they need you to let go
    If you love someone let them go
    If they return then they are yours
    Trust me every family has the same problems
    Love yourself and your husband and book holidays go out be busy

  4. I agree with Christine’s post of January 17, 2018, at 1:05 am. I know how difficult it is but we have to go on with our lives. Our adult children have made their decisions, even though we have sacrificed and given unconditional love. Someday they will have kids that will treat them the same way they have treated us. We, as parents, need to enjoy our lives and I am. Stay strong!

  5. Reading and seeing that others have the same problem as me is a little comforting…i don’t feel so alone but the pain is still there. I don’t have any answers just the same pain of not having my son talking to me anymore. We were so close when he was growing up and he went on his own to be a Marine (still active), he married (7 years now) and in the process of adopting 3 beautiful children who i have only been blessed to see a couple times. When they come to town to visit his wifes mother, they dont let me know or even come by. I find out through facebook. I did not raise my son to be this way. I’ve always taught him how important family is to one another and when he got married that all changed. I understand, he has his own life and starting his own family…..just wish he would let me be a part. The kicker about all of this is….I don’t know why he doesnt respond. I know some are thinking “You must have said or done something” Honestly, I have no clue. I spoke with my pastor and he just tells me this is all a part of God’s perfect plan. His plan is breaking my heart but it’s suppose to be doing somebody good. I just have to keep my trust and faith in God that he will one day bring my son back to me and let me be a part of his life and my grandchildren’s lives.

  6. 5 years on and the conversation is still pertinent to many of us. I echo much of what has been said here with my own experience and it makes me feel like I’ve been the worst example of a parent to my only son.

    It’s upsetting and sometimes puzzling and I have no idea how I’ve ended up in such a situation, but I will take a smidgeon of responsibility. His issue is my control. My excuse? If I could help him succeed, avoid mistakes, and take responsibility then I’ve helped. I haven’t though. I’ve made it all worse and I’ve ruined a relationship and a friendship.

    As a parent, I thought I was doing the right things. I fed him, loved him, gave him everything he needed and wanted. I tried to teach him to be kind to others. I would lay down my life for him. At lot of the things I’ve done was done out of love…and for an easy life. I hated confrontations and would do what he asked to save an argument, even when I didn’t want to. He’s often said that we’re close…maybe too close and a parent and child. As an adult, I’ve done everything for him that I could, as I thought he’d struggle if I didn’t. My mistake was mistaking my control for love. So, it’s as much my fault as anyone’s.

    Very often, our discussions about respect would descend into an argument with foul words and blame. Rarely, would we be able to discuss a wrong or an issue with the ensuing row. My apology (never one from him) would calm the storm, and all would be forgotten until the next one. I’d apologise because I was the adult, but by apologising I was acknowledging that the fault was mine.

    Today, instead of engaging after a verbal assault, I wrote him an email admitting my errors and that by my control, I was taking everything from him and it was time he became the man he should be, and live the life he wants. By return I received the most awful, vitriolic response. I’m not sure if there’s a way back from this anymore. Seeing his anger written, is far worse than hearing the words said.

    I admit my errors. I acknowledge my part in our dysfunctional relationship…but he can’t admit his and there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot I can do about it. I will lose him, I know and that makes me sad to know that I can’t fix this.

  7. My fiancé of 3 yrs has a grown 25 yr old that just got married two months ago , I was not invited to wedding. She calls her dad 2-3 times to chat even late at night , she doesn’t want to know me , is this normal?

  8. My daughter doesn’t ignore gifts sent. She wants to keep me close so that she can take her frustrations out on me. Last Thanksgiving I had really had it with her. She invited me down with promises of doing things together. She took me out the first night and was polite so I stayed a second night……Big mistake. I should have known from past experience not to spend too much time with her. As usual she started making little digs, getting on her phone and texting her friends, playing computer games … totally ignoring me. If I said anything about it she would bring up something from the past that I did that she didn’t like.
    I finally told her that it was time for me to go. She actually got angry. I couldn’t believe it. She won’t even talk to words to me, except to complain. But if I want to go she is insulted. Unbelievable!!!

  9. My adults kids can be rude or mean to me. I try to have boundaries and will let my son know when he is inappropriate with me. I think he does reflect on my comments. However, my daughter, she says I push her buttons. I try so hard not to criticize but evidently I must, because when I visit, she ends up offended and comes at me (guess I roll my eyes too loudly- ha). I am not used to confrontation or being yelled at -I try to maintain my self respect. Sometimes my husband sticks up for me but sometimes he says nothing. He stays pretty much neutral which makes me so angry at times and makes em look like the bad one. Our kids are good people who married nice people(not Jewish but that’s another story). They thank us and are appreciative for gifts and for babysitting etc. and we are close to them. My BIGGEST heartache is….my son wants nothing to do with my daughter. Incredibly painful as it has broken up our family. We don’t have the joy of seeing all the grand kids together (our daughter lives out of town). This is compounded by us living far away from our big families who have lots of get togethers. Therefore, our two kids do not have the opportunity to attend the same events or get together. I have been hurting for ten years over this. Whoever dreamed of fostering their relationship with one another when they were young. I guess I should have worked on that with them. Everyone said there is nothing I can do so I keep my mouth shut. I wish I could tell my son how much pain he is putting us thru plus adult sibling relationships are so precious and important and rewarding. People who have kids who get along and are close, do not realize how lucky they are. I have tried everything in my head to get some peace with it but nothing works ):

  10. I am in the same situation, however, I have a set of twin girls that hate each other and hate me without any kindness at all. I was a single parent when the where 3 to 11. I never received any child support from their father so I had to work and work often. They stayed a lot with my mom and dad. I never felt like I ignored them. I was alway at their functions. When they turn 11 I married a man that gave all of us a great life and a stable financial life as well. So they were never without anything. Now at 36 and me at 67 has turned horrible. One refuses to talk to me at all since November. I don’t even know why. Yesterday I wrote her a text message begging her to tell me what has happened. With no response from her. The other one is verbally aggressive towards me. With text messages that go so deep my heart is totally broken. She has continued this behavior for years. But I always go back and apologize for whatever she said I did. But again here comes another email or phone call that slices thru me like a sword I end up crying for days until we make contact again. I am done! I want to move out of the area so no one can get to me. I am screaming from hurt and a ripped out heart. My girls and grandkids are my life. And without them I’m broken.

    I feel like an abused dog that gets beat then wags their tail when the master comes back around. I can’t take it anymore. This is so not normal.

  11. Hi All
    I have a son who is 29 years old. His dad and I are divorced for 12years. His dad has issues with alcohol and also lost his job and now he is has found employment with a small salary. My son has a girlfriend who is older and she has spoken to me several times about his behaviour. He behaves like his dad, rude to his girlfriend and used to be rude to me as well. he would tell her to get out or ignore her calls, and his dad did the same thing to me. My son always says he wont replicate the same mistakes like us but I see him do the same. How do I approach him.

  12. My 30 yr. old stopped talking to me after a fine wedding on the Hudson and her new husband got a big job. Horrible. I did sob.. The was very sad.. now I am working on sadly accepting I am not the one whom decides how things are between us. Her husband is smart but a bit odd… and certainly controlling. She has issues sadly herself I was told by her sister that I was not aware of.. another reason to sadly give all the mental room she wants as she may truly need it in order for her to get herself together. She is very smart as her husband is and works in a very good job also.

  13. So someone is going to stop having a relationship from the people that love them the most because they are brats? Not hardly – go to counseling, get a personality test to see if you have any disorders, and look at your other failed relationships. The only person that you can control and change is the one in the mirror. Treat your child with the respect you would give a stranger, a friend or a boss. stop with the lectures – you probably weren’t half as responsible as them at their age.

    And why in the world would you throw the 1st birthday party instead of the parents? Didn’t you get to do it when your child was little?

    It’s not about YOU!

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