When your adult child comes to you with an issue about their career, their relationship or their own kids, it’s easy to assume they’re seeking your trusted input on the matter. But consider that they may just be looking for a compassionate ear.
The best way to find out what they need is to ask, “Are you looking for advice or are you wanting to vent?” said Dallas marriage and family therapist Sarah Epstein.
Adult children “may not want consistent feedback on their choices,” Epstein told HuffPost. “If parents can embrace only offering advice when asked, and learn the skills to listen thoughtfully, their relationship will almost certainly strengthen.”
Winifred Reilly, a marriage and family therapist in Berkeley, California, said it’s important to “stay in your lane” as the parent of an adult child.
“There was a time when we could pick our kids up under one arm and carry them out of the playground. It was our job to call all the shots,” Reilly, who is also the author of “It Takes One to Tango,” told HuffPost. “Once they’re adults, we need to be literally and figuratively more hands off.”
That doesn’t mean you don’t play an important role in their life anymore. It just means your role has transitioned to “more of a trusted adviser,” Reilly said.
“Instead of, ‘Here’s what I think you should do,’ a better and more respectful move is, ‘Would you like to hear my thoughts on that?’” Reilly said.
“When invited, we can say what we’re thinking and ask what they’re thinking. When we’re not invited, it’s a good idea not to chime in,” said. “The overall message needs to be one of love and respect, even if we don’t fully agree with their decisions.”
2. Show your child that you believe they’re capable of handing difficult situations.