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16 Ways to Transform a Broken Relationship with an Adult Child

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Disagreements between parents and children can lead to significant rifts and conflicts lasting decades or even a lifetime. This can be tough on family dynamics (and people’s hearts) and cause some family members to feel stuck in the middle of the drama.

Regardless of parenting style, most of us will make mistakes as parents- even if we have good intentions at heart. This can damage the parent-child relationship, even as they reach adulthood. Depending on the circumstances and what words were said, it can feel like the damage is irreparable. But there’s always hope.

Cultivating a positive and healthy connection with your grown children stands as one of the most rewarding aspects of parenting. If your relationship with your adult children is strained or less than satisfactory, repair is possible. Here’s how you can mend it.

1. Love Them For Who They Are

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Many kids drift away from their parents when they feel like their parents want them to be someone they’re not. Instead of fighting all the time, they cut ties in a bid to keep their authenticity, even when it’s displeasing to the parent.

Let your kids know your love for them isn’t tied to anything specific or conforming to your idea of “perfect.” They don’t need to choose a specific profession, live in a certain place, or choose a certain partner. Just love them for who they are, with no strings attached.

2. Be Proud of Them

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Children of all ages want to know that their parents don’t see them as failures. Be proud of your adult child’s achievements, and tell them you are. No matter how big or small, letting them know that you’re proud of them can help them feel accepted and loved.

Verbalize it out loud; don’t assume they know. They can’t read your mind.

3. Be Available

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A child needs the assurance that they have their parents’ support and will get help from them when needed. This doesn’t mean you have to bail them out with requests that don’t make sense for your lifestyle (particularly money-wise). Instead, be present and help them brainstorm and problem-solve when needed.

A child knowing that their parents have their back is a great feeling that helps them feel confident to face life’s challenges.

4. Believe in Them

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A parent’s confidence in their child is the wind beneath their hard work and aspirations. Even if their dreams seem a little crazy or scary to you, it’s not your place to be the background voice that reminds them they can’t do it.

Instead, be there for them when they have questions (don’t just give your “advice” unsolicited).

5. Validate Their Feelings

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Everyone needs to have their feelings validated and not made to feel as though they’re being unreasonable. This means a lot when it comes from a parent.

If your adult kids have distanced themselves and no longer share their feelings with you, evaluate your past responses to their feelings and remind yourself to be empathetic.

6. Acknowledge Their Struggles

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If your child is going through a hard time, making them feel like it’s not as hard as they think (or as they’re making it sound) won’t help much with your relationship. They don’t need judgment or comparison; they just need someone who’ll acknowledge that they’re going through a rough patch, even if there isn’t much to be done.

Acknowledge that their circumstances are indeed difficult, and assure them that you’re ready and willing to walk whatever journey they’re on with them. You can be their shoulder to cry on, at the very least.

7. Allow Them to Mess Up

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It would be wonderful to raise perfect kids, but perfection will always be an inch or several miles out of reach as long as you raise human kids. Plus, parents are not perfect, either (and showing them that or admitting that is healing too).

Allow your children to make mistakes and to learn from them. If they feel they have to live up to certain perfect, unachievable standards, they’ll likely choose to stay away to avoid disappointing you.

8. Apologize When You Need To

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There was a time when parents didn’t apologize to their children, young or old, and it cost them a relationship with the kids- with phrases like “because I said so” and other authoritarian tendencies.

You will make mistakes as a parent, and acknowledging that you are human will help your relationship with the children. It’s a sign of good character to be able to step back and apologize when necessary.

9. Spend Time With Them

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Children will never outgrow the need for their parents despite how old they grow. Let your children know that you consider the time you spend with them valuable and make an effort to spend time with them.

If you haven’t seen each other in a while, inviting them over or meeting them somewhere can be a great way to rekindle a relationship.

10. Show Them Gratitude

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Show gratitude for and to your grown-up children, and always tell them you’re happy to be their parents. A child who feels like a nuisance will not want to spend much time with their parents, especially into adulthood.

Show appreciation for what they do to better themselves and what they do for you.

11. Be Ready and Willing to Work on the Relationship

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All relationships are two-way, and a parent-child relationship is no exception.

Initiate the reconciliation and show enthusiasm when they reach out. As a parent, it can be hard to swallow your pride, but it just might be worth it when you can repair a relationship with one of the most important people in your life.

12. Communicate Openly

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Communication is key in any relationship, and it’s no different with your grown children. Be open to listening to their perspectives and feelings without judgment or defensiveness. Also, express your own thoughts and emotions respectfully.

Open communication allows for deeper understanding, mutual respect, and the building of trust between parents and their adult children. It also creates a safe space for both parties to express themselves freely without fear of judgment or rejection.

13. Respect Boundaries

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As your children grow up, it’s important to recognize and respect their boundaries. This means understanding that they are independent individuals with their own lives, thoughts, and feelings. Avoid overstepping or controlling their decisions by constantly checking in or giving unsolicited advice.

Respecting boundaries shows that you trust and respect your children as adults, which can greatly strengthen your relationship with them. It also allows them to feel comfortable and safe around you.

14. Celebrate Milestones

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Make an effort to celebrate important milestones in your grown children’s lives, such as birthdays, graduations, job promotions, or new relationships. These special moments are opportunities to show your love and support for them and make them feel valued and appreciated.

By celebrating their achievements, you also acknowledge their growth and hard work, which can boost their self-esteem and strengthen your bond with them.

15. Keep an Open Mind

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As your children grow up, their beliefs and values may differ from yours. It’s important to keep an open mind and accept their choices as long as they are not harmful or destructive.

Being judgmental or closed-minded can create barriers and distance in your relationship with your adult children. Instead, try to understand their perspectives and have open discussions about any differences in beliefs or values. This can lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation for one another.

16. Seek Professional Help

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If you have difficulty reconnecting with your grown children, seek professional help. A family therapist or counselor can provide an unbiased and safe space for you and your children to work through any issues or conflicts.

With the guidance of a professional, you can learn effective communication techniques and improve your relationship with your adult children. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed; it’s never too late to repair and strengthen your bond with your children.


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Countless adults sitting in a therapist’s office today are grappling with the lasting impact of words spoken by their parents during childhood. Regardless of how you perceive yourself, in your child’s eyes, you are nothing short of the most remarkable thing to happen to them since “skip intro.” This underscores the critical importance of being mindful of what you say to your children, as your words become the small but influential voice in their developing minds.

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