Parenting Adult Children: How to Respond When Your Child Has a Problem
One of the most challenging and rewarding thresholds in life can be talking to your adult child when they come to you with a problem. This is it is a statement of love and trust.
Sometimes knowing what to say to them, and how and when to say it, can make all the difference in having a heartfelt connection or a conversation that ends with frustration and maybe even anger on both sides.
As a mother, there is bond between you and your son and/or daughter. It is a natural instinct that tugs at you to take away their pain. Why? Because you love them! However, if you try to “fix” them and take the pain away, you may discover that tactic rarely works. However, creating a healthy connection with your adult children can be a powerful experience for you and them.
When it comes to parenting adult children, here are four tips for communicating well.
Step One for Parenting an Adult Child: Breathe!
First, take a few deep breaths or several throughout your conversation. Slow, rhythmic breathing keeps you in the present moment. Breathing in this way slows down a reactive response from you. When you are in the present moment, you can listen and focus on what your child is really feeling.
Listen with Intent
Listening with intent is a special way to connect with your children and people you care about. “Being heard” by someone is the ultimate expression of love because you feel honored by the person you are speaking with. Listening with intent means truly listening to the feeling of what someone is saying and acknowledging you have heard them.
This takes practice, but the reward is sweet because of how the conversation flows. Listening with intent opens and strengthens a heart to heart conversation between the two of you. Isn’t that what love is all about?
Ask with an Open Heart What They Need from You
This takes the guesswork out of the conversation, especially since as a mother you feel like you have to “fix them.” When your child shares a problem, they may be asking you for emotional support and what you would do in this situation. They are not asking for an opinion. Opinions will feel like judgment to them. Thank them for reaching out to you. They will feel more compelled to call again.
Build Bridges of Connection
Your children need to know that you understand times are different. Ask them what they might do to solve the problem. Empowering them to explore solutions is the deepest validation you can give someone. And, if you have a suggestion, say “I have a suggestion or thought about what you are saying. Do you want to hear it?” If they say yes, share it. If not, just let it go.
Remember this is your child’s journey now, not yours. You are walking with them, not for them.
Don’t forget how you learned life’s lessons. Through your own experience – trial and error – right?
Finally, in moving through this gateway, your goal in building a great connection is with a clear and open heart. You are on a path in a new time and with a new generation. Great relationships with your children start with validating your adult children as well as yourself. Both of you hold great wisdom.
What have been your successes or frustrations in communicating with and parenting adult children? What have you found works well in keeping the lines of communication open? How do you share advice without making judgments? Please share in the comments.
Ellen Bachmeyer, LCSW, helps women in their 50s 60s and 70s as they move through life transitions to create new meaning and emerge with an inspired life. She has been a practicing psychotherapist for over 35 years and has supported women with many transitions from divorce, to caretaking and grieving to remarriage, grandparenting and encore careers. Her website is Windhorse Center.