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Parenting Adult Children: How to Respond When Your Child Has a Problem

By Ellen Bachmeyer April 04, 2023 Family

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 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 a 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. 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.


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.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

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.

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I find adult children interesting. They don’t need you like they did before but they still need support financially and emotionally, however I do like being treated as “guest” these days. They don’t need my advice as much as I may need theirs. And since becoming a grandma, I don’t feel the need to “helicopter” my children at all. My adult children are actually fun to be around and have a glass of wine with!!


Excellent article. As Mom’s, our first inclination is to help fix it. I plan to use these suggestions with my two adult children! Thank you.



Jean Howey

Aging with Heart website isn’t available?? Any way to contact Ellen?

Vanya Drumchiyska

Hi Jean,
It appears that Ellen has discontinued her 3 websites, but is active on her personal Facebook (ellen.bachmeyer). On her Facebook business page (click the F button in her bio) there is an email and a phone number. She will also receive an email notification regarding your comment.
I hope this helps!
Vanya, Sixty and Me Team

Last edited 1 year ago by Vanya Drumchiyska

Daughter , 39, redirects
Me when we talk on phone if I talk about something other than she specifically inquired about.


And my son does the same to me, his Dad. He’s 40. They don’t like us telling them what to do or being nosey.

The Author

Ellen Bachmeyer, LCSW, is a practicing psychotherapist and Life Coach, she has supported women in their 50s, 60s, and beyond through many life transitions from divorce to caretaking and grieving, to remarriage, grand parenting and encore careers. Ellen offers assistance in recapturing your life's vitality, rebalancing, satisfying your needs and renewing your power to take meaningful action in your life.

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