November 26

6 Tips for Communicating with Your Adult Children


Is talking with your adult children more exhausting and depressing than it is pleasant? Life was simpler when your children were smaller. Sure, there were temper-tantrums, yelling, and hurt feelings, but you were in charge and eventually, they had to listen.

Each time your conversation ends in heated words, you worry that this will be the last memory they have of you.

It can be challenging to communicate with your adult children — they are adults now after all and know everything. You can minimize the fighting and improve your relationship by following a little bit of advice. Let's look at how.

How to Communicate with Your Adult Children

Learning to reconnect with your children now that they have entered adulthood can be challenging. The dynamics of your relationship with them has changed, and it can be difficult to find a new balance between you.

You are so used to caring for them and you worry about them all the time. It’s not something that you can just “shut off” when it becomes inconvenient for them. 

The biggest thing to remember is that you were once their age, dealing with your parents as they got older. Try to remember the things that used to upset you and think of ways you can do it differently with your children. Keep reading below for more tips on how to communicate with your kids.

1. Make Plans Early

Planning ahead is the key to minimizing potential arguments and ensuring your wishes are followed. If you already have a plan in place for when things come up, your kids won’t feel that they have to make decisions for you and you can avoid heated conversations about your future.

  • Make sure to discuss future financial decisions with your family

  • Purchase supplemental insurance for independent or assisted living communities. 

  • Make arrangements with the funeral home of your choice so your kids will know what you want when that time comes.

  • Write down important information like bills, banking info, spare key locations, and passwords. Place them in a secure location and make sure your children know where this location is in your house.

  • Write down pertinent information about any living wills, insurance papers, deeds, or other important documents and ensure they know where to find it if something happens to you.

Just having those documents in place can help you and your children feel more at ease. It gives you both the peace of mind that things will be taken care of in the event of an emergency and it allows you some space to breathe because they aren’t hovering as much.   

Recommended Reading: Ask the Expert - Fewer Secrets Now, Fewer Headaches Later

2. Discuss Expectations During Visits

Do your children tend to hover and overstay their welcome? You know they love you and they mean well, but when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. 

Discuss any visits beforehand and define the timelines for their stay. When will they be arriving and when will they plan to head home?  

If they are providing short-term care, talk to them about who will be taking over in their absence when they return home. If you don’t need constant support or care, consider discussing a medical alert device in case of emergencies. 

This can be a happy medium between your child’s fear of leaving you alone and your desire for some peace and quiet.  Setting boundaries before visits really helps offset some of those difficult conversations when you are ready to have your house to yourself again.

3. Reconnect on Equal Footing

Our children’s personalities change so much as they age. Your laughing little toddler turns into an intelligent and curious kindergartner. Then before you know it they are preteens and hitting puberty. Next, they are teenagers and seem like entirely different people. They are spending all their time in their rooms or going out with friends.  

Just when we have gotten used to who our kids are as teenagers, they grow up and turn into adults with families right before our eyes. 

As parents, this all seems to happen so fast. It can be hard to adjust to the changes and connect to this new person that our children have become. 

Don’t take it personally when they reject your advice.

You have much more experience than your children and you want to pass your hard-won knowledge on so they don’t go through the same struggles you did. You try to coach them and give them advice, but as they find their own footing in the world, your advice isn’t as appreciated anymore. Try not to take this personally. 

You learned a lot of life lessons the hard way, and your kids will too — despite your best efforts to help them.

Be positive and remember that they are still seeking your approval.

Be positive and find opportunities to compliment your kid on the things they are doing well as an adult. Our kids always want our approval and knowing that you are proud of them can help strengthen the relationship you have with them. 

Keep building new memories.

Ask them questions and find out more about their lives and what they like to do now. Connect over shared interests and make time to do things together that you both enjoy. If you put in more effort to create happy memories it can make a world of difference in the bond you have you with your kid as an adult.

4. Practice Active Listening

One of the most challenging aspects of having adult children is how little they seem to listen to you. One day they are asking for your advice on things, and the next they know what’s best for you and are making decisions about your life for you.

As challenging as it may be, take the time to make sure they know that you hear what they’re saying — whether you agree with it or not. Their pushiness comes from a place of love and concern, so stay focused on the motivation for their concern.

Active listening is a great tool in a conversation when you want to let someone know you hear what they have to say and want to diffuse an argument before it starts. Learning how to actively listen can make a huge difference in the conversations you have with your kids.

How to Actively Listen

  • Remain neutral and non-judgmental.

  • Be patient. Don’t fill in periods of silence.

  • Provide verbal and nonverbal indications that you are listening — make eye contact, smile, lean in, etc.

  • Ask questions.

  • Reflect back what is said to you.

  • Ask for clarification when needed.

  • Summarize what they said to you to show that you understood it.

For more information about active listening and why it matters, check out the following article from Very Well Mind: How to Practice Active Listening.

5. Know Your Limits

It’s hard to admit when you need help. You don’t want to be a burden on your kids or give them a reason to worry about you. You know they are busy and trying to raise and manage families of their own and careers and you might be tempted to not tell them about falls or accidents you’ve had.

Know your own limits — don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. 

If you are finding certain tasks more difficult to do it might be time to have your kids step in a little more if they are able. If they live too far away or are otherwise unable to assist you, consider hiring services to do the work you are finding too hard to keep up with on your own.

  • Is it starting to be too physically demanding to complete yard work? Hire a lawn and maintenance company to handle all those tasks for you. 

  • Are you having a hard time cleaning or preparing meals? Let your kids help when they can and think about hiring someone to come clean, or sign up for a meal prepping service. 

  • Have realistic conversations with your kids and work together to come up with solutions that work for both of you.

Don’t let things go too long because you keep telling yourself you will get to it when you feel better. That day might not come and the more you let pile up the more stressed you and your kids will be when the time comes that you can’t let it go any longer.

6. Continue Learning

Don’t give up! Communicating with your adult children WILL get easier. Don’t forget to follow the suggestions discussed above and don’t be afraid to try something new. 

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