How to Talk to Your Adult Children

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Figuring out how to communicate with your adult children can be difficult, especially if you've had a strained relationship in the past. But learning how to talk with your adult kids is doable, as long as you take things slow, avoid needless conflict and respect your child's adult identity. Start off talking about neutral topics during times when you're both rested and relaxed. Handle conflicts carefully as they come up and respect your child's ability to make his or her own choices.

  • Call your child in the early evening when she's likely to be free. Calling late at night while she's tired, or during the day while she may be stressed with work, will start your conversation on a sour note. Make an effort to learn your child's schedule and ask her when are good times for her to chat.

  • Talk about neutral subjects with your child. For example, if you know you both are incapable of discussing politics, religion, or your Uncle Ted without devolving into angry bickering, don't bring those topics up. If they arise, gently change the subject. Guide the conversation by saying something to the effect of, "I am interested in your thoughts on this subject, Liam, but first I really want to talk to you about the new sports club you started. Is it as fun as it sounds?"

  • Handle controversial topics carefully, if they must be discussed. Even if you strongly disagree with your child's choice, make the effort to listen to his reasoning and ask questions that show you hear his concerns. State your opposition calmly, and carefully avoid personal attacks. Name-calling, exaggerations, or insinuations will likely cause your child to become defensive and shut down. As long as your child's choice will not be placing him or others at risk, drop the subject once your child has made it clear his decision is final.

  • Respect the fact your child is now an adult and that he may consider certain parts of his life, like finances or romance, private. Don't push issues if he has made it clear they are off-limits for discussion. Continuing to do so may drive him away by making him feel he's being interrogated.

  • Talk with your child in person whenever possible, or arrange web cam "dates" with her if you live far away. Taking the time to arrange face-to-face chats shows your child you're invested in maintaining a relationship with her. If your relationship is strained, start with short chat dates before progressing to longer meetings.

  • Photo Credit David Cordner/Photodisc/Getty Images
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