Strained Relationship? 5 Tips for Reconnecting With Your Adult Child

Do you feel like you and your child have drifted apart? Do you worry that the two of you are becoming strangers, that you have somehow damaged the relationship or lost the connection you once shared?

Parenting is a lifelong task, and the work undoubtedly changes once your children become adults. Now that they have independent lives and other significant relationships, what role should you play?

And if things feel tense or you’re dealing with the perils of the empty nest, how can you start reconnecting with your adult child in a way that doesn’t feel awkward or forceful? Let’s dive in.

Practice Active Listening

Active listening is probably one of the most important skills a good parent can possess. This kind of listening is intentional, present-focused, and validating. When done effectively, it makes other people feel safe and understood.

Most children naturally want their parents’ approval. If they sense you don’t care about their lives (or that you’re judging what they do), they will likely become defense or withdrawn altogether.

So, start making a genuine effort to listen deeply. Don’t interrupt when they talk. Avoid making assumptions and pretending like you know the best solutions. Finally, ask clarifying questions when you don’t understand something.

Show a Genuine Interest in Their Lives

Whether it’s asking them about their college classes or checking in on the latest saga with their coworker, paying close attention to their daily routine shows you value the nuances of their unique lives.

Showing an interest starts with listening. Familiarize yourself with their usual schedule. Get to know the names of their classmates, friends, and bosses. Ask about their usual weekend plans or favorite restaurants.

Be careful of the tendency to offer quick advice or suggestions when they talk to you. Being interested isn’t the same as solving problems. Being interested simply means you value your child as an independent adult with independent thoughts and preferences.

Acknowledge Your Wrongdoings

Good parenting entails modeling prosocial behavior for your children. You are not perfect, and pretending that you are will only alienate you from your loved ones.

Instead, commit to holding yourself accountable for your actions. If you make a mistake, own up to it quickly and efficiently. If you believe you hurt your child’s feelings, apologize and ask how you can make things better.

Furthermore, it’s important that you continue striving to become the best version of yourself. Your adult children probably recognize some of your flaws (even if that’s painful), but they can also recognize a parent’s effort to work on those flows.

Ask How You Can Improve Things

Have you ever considered asking your child what you can do to strengthen the relationship? If you haven’t, you might be surprised by their answers.

Some children just want their parents to be more validating and supportive. They want to know that, if they come to you venting with a problem, you will listen to them compassionately.

Others might want more practical support. For instance, they may need money or a place to live. They might want your input on a certain struggle they’re facing.

Of course, you aren’t obligated to give your child anything that doesn’t align with your values or integrity. Upholding boundaries is important in any relationship. But if you don’t ask how you can be the best parent for your child, you might be putting forth the wrong effort.

Be Flexible In How You Can Connect

Maybe you really want those weekly family dinners. Or, you love the idea of taking an annual vacation with everyone.

These desires are reasonable, but your child might have different goals. Moreover, they may not be in a position to meet your particular expectations right now. As a compromise, it can be helpful to try to meet them on their terms.

You can do this by asking what feels reasonable to them. For example, how often would they like to talk on the phone? Or text? Or visit you in person?

If you have this conversation, it’s important to monitor your own expectations and regulate your emotions. Guilting or blaming your child will backfire- it will likely make them feel angry or ashamed that they can’t give you what you want.

Finally, if there is a significant physical distance between the two of you, keep in mind it’s likely easier for you to visit them than vice versa. See how you can accommodate their schedule instead of asking otherwise.

Should You Consider Therapy for Reconnecting With Your Adult Child?

If things are especially tense (or if you are estranged altogether), seeking professional support can help. The parent-child relationship is complex, and therapy offers a supportive environment for sorting through challenging emotions.

Reconnecting with your adult child often takes time and effort, but most parents find that it’s worth the sacrifice. Together, we can identify the best steps for achieving your goal. Contact me today to get started!

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

Got Questions?
Send a Message!

By submitting this form via this web portal, you acknowledge and accept the risks of communicating your health information via this unencrypted email and electronic messaging and wish to continue despite those risks. By clicking "Yes, I want to submit this form" you agree to hold Brighter Vision harmless for unauthorized use, disclosure, or access of your protected health information sent via this electronic means.