How do you manage your relationship with your grown children?

Do you feel disappointed and disillusioned with your adult child? Or wounded by his silence, distance, or harsh words?

Or are you an adult child yourself who feels feel angry toward your parents because of their judgmental and condescending attitudes?

I know of several cases where parents and children are estranged – sometimes for months, sometimes for years, with no contact at all. It’s true that some parents are alcoholics or mentally imbalanced, but in other cases parents have done their best, with good intentions, yet their grown children pull away and reject them. And I know of adult children who want to move on but just can’t help feeling they deserved better parenting.

Some of the nine women I interviewed for Warm Cup of Wisdom seemed to have established warm and loving relationships with their children – but others struggled. The problem centers on what parents call “guidance” or “advice” – and what adult children call “meddling” or “nagging.” While children are growing up, parents take responsibility for guiding their children and it feels unnatural – wrong, even – to suddenly stop caring what happens to your kids when they become adults. You brought them into this world, and you want to see them happy and stable.

But how much advice is too much? And how can you word your suggestions in a way your son or daughter will hear as constructive? Sometimes adult children are particularly sensitive to what they perceive as criticism – often when they are most insecure and uncertain. It’s true they need to be independent, to learn from their own mistakes. But it can be painful to watch. Your kids, after all, are among the most important people in your life.

Here are some words of wisdom from the women I interviewed, who learned the hard way how to relate to their adult children.

  • Expressing your disapproval is not a good idea. They have made their choices.
  • Try not to be too involved in their lives. Hands off! Unless it’s “serious business.”
  • Learn how to listen, like a good counselor. Then let them talk will they come up with their own solutions.
  • Bite your tongue. If they ask for advice, give it. If they don’t ask for it, don’t.
  • Ask them for advice sometimes.
  • You can relax and be a little more open and human than you were.
  • Sometimes helping your kids (especially with money) is not the right thing to do. We need to lose our need to help them.
  • Accept them for who they are – and love them that way, truly.
  • Hang in there with them.
  • As parents, we need to lose our need to make them be the way we want them to be.
  • Let go. Try not to be controlling.
  • We are each responsible for ourselves. If you feel rejected by your kids, you need to deal with your own feelings.
  • More than anything, help your kids believe in themselves.

When I wrote Warm Cup of Wisdom, I did not know of any books giving advice to parents about relating to their adult children. Since then, I have found a few, which received high reader ratings on Amazon:

  1. Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship between Adult Children and Parents, by Jane Isay, a former book editor who edited Reviving Ophelia. (2008)
  2. When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along, by psychologist Dr. Joshua Coleman. (2008).
  3. Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children, by Ruth Nemzoff. (2008)
  4. How to Really Love Your Adult Child: Building a Healthy Relationship in a Changing World, by Gary D. Chapmen and Dr. Ross Campbell. Chapman is a relationship counselor and author of The 5 Love Languages. These authors also wrote Parenting Your Adult Child: How You Can Help them Achieve Their Full Potential in 1999.

About dorijonesyang

As a former journalist in Hong Kong, I love writing books that bridge the gap of understanding between China and America. My new book, When the Red Gates Opened: A Memoir of China's Reawakening, will be published in September 2020.
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1 Response to How do you manage your relationship with your grown children?

  1. rjvesper says:

    This question covers a lot of ground & has as many reasonable solutions as there are thorny situations to address.
    It also places us at another new beginning; in a relationship we may have looked upon as being nearly mastered. It’s always evolving.


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