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Communicating with Adult Offspring

Updated on September 15, 2020
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Jacqueline Williamson graduated with a BBA in Personnel Admin., an MPA in HR Management and an MS in Education.


They are NOT the cuddly little bundles of joy that you gazed upon when bringing them home from the hospital. Their rosy cheeks may now be due to the rouge that they wear or their stylish haircuts are the results of their decision to look a certain way. Like it or not—they are now all grown up with ideas and concepts due in part from your upbringing and in part from what they have gleamed from life itself. When this is understood—then the proper care and feeding of adult offspring will be an easy transition.

It’s Okay to drop the hand

When your children first learned to walk; you stood close by waiting for that sudden tumble or stumble so that you could grasp them up to insure no great damage was done. Well—now they are adults. It’s okay if once in a while they ignore that helping hand and attempt to figure things out for themselves.

Of course, when it looks like they are going headlong into dangerous territory—you want to put up warning signs and post signals. However, that’s all that you can do—be an advisor. The final decision should be theirs and if they are married; their decision will include a spouse. Hopefully, when they were children you instilled the concept of right and wrong and the laws of reciprocity: what you dish out comes back to you, eventually.

Let them seek YOU for advice

If you have been there for your children during their formative years as well as during times of stress; then you can expect them to come to you willingly when a problem arises or when they just need to vocalize an issue. Sometimes, they are not in the need for advice; they just want to articulate their desires aloud and use you as a sounding board.

Think about how a psychiatrist handles patients. If he is really good at his trade—he will listen attentively to what the person has to say and guide them into discovery of the right answer. He doesn’t just tell them that this is what they should do. Otherwise the burden of responsibility shifts from the patient to the doctor. This same technique can be used with adult offspring.

Listen without interruption to what they have to say. Let them express their thoughts and desires regarding whatever the situation is and wait until they have completely finished before you say anything. Caution—don’t be judgmental! That’s the best way of pushing your adult offspring away. Turn the tables back on them and see what they think.

For an example: Suppose Jennifer, your daughter is thinking of forming a close relationship with Mark, a fellow that has a rather questionable reputation. She comes to you for advice. Ask her to take a sheet of paper and fold it in half the long way. Then open the paper and at the top write Good Qualities and Undesirable Qualities. Then ask her to list them; being sure to number each quality as it arises. Now, suggest she look at the list. If she had more trouble with finding the good qualities, then this should tell her something. If she insist on going that route—let her know that you will be there when things get rough and that you are always available to listen. Make sure she knows that the police are a phone call away and at the first sign of danger to LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!

Remember, it’s their lives

Sometimes it’s hard watching our children go out to pursue their own lives and experience things that are separate from your influence. This is what you have been grooming them to face all their lives. If you have discussed things with your children; allowing them to have even minor roles in decision making as youngsters—then the transition to adult decision making will not come as a shock to them. My children were given $20 and then told that what they bought had to be within that amount. This included taxes as well. They soon learned the value of budgeting!

Were there family discussions regarding vacation plans? When shopping for the latest fashions—was your opinion given and why; then did you listen to theirs? While shopping at the grocery, were they allowed to pick certain food items? If you did this with them as children then they shouldn’t have many problems making decisions as adults.

There are always going to be unforeseen hazard and when they arrive whether or not they turn to you or someone else for advice will no doubt depend on the relationship you had with them as children. I may not have liked all the choices my adult offspring made but they know that I am always available with an open ear (and mind) to whatever they wish to share.

What was it like ...

Did you include your children in decisions that involved them with group discussions?

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© 2015 Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS


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