How to Be Friends with Your Adult Children
An amazing thing can happen in life. You can have an adult relationship with your children once they are grown up Here’s how to be friends with your adult children.
These people that you raised, grow up and start their own lives. One day they need you and the next, they are telling you that “I’ve got this.”
Our relationship with our children can seem to change overnight. One day we are parenting and the next, we don’t know what to do.
I’m going to offer you a suggestion.
Become friends with your adult children. Of course, you will always be their parent. Hopefully, you’ve gained wisdom from your years that your children will seek at times.
Yet, they won’t always. Often they will want to follow their own path. Yet you can still be friends with your grow up kids!
I love being a mom and a friend to my adult children. I’ve made my share of mistakes but overall we have built a strong friendship. Here are the ways I’ve found how to be friends with your adult children.
The bottom line is that being friends with your grown-up children means accepting that they are indeed grown-ups and in charge of their own lives.
You don’t always know what is best for them
Being older, doesn’t always mean wiser. Yet, we think we are. Okay, in some ways we do have a few years’ experience on our children. And when they ask for some advice or an opinion, it’s great to share it with them.
However, you don’t actually know what is best for them.
In some ways, they don’t either. Yet, they are the ones that have to choose their path and stick to it.
I decided when my children were in their late teens to let them have autonomy over their choices.
I let them pick where they went to college (as long as it was a state school), who their friends were, and how they wanted to spend their free time.
My only requirement was that they attend and finish a four-year degree. Their dad and I could afford to cover their tuition and living expenses.
We didn’t let them pick expensive colleges that would saddle any of us with future debt. This is an important part of their stories.
None of my children picked a degree that I would have chosen for them. Not one of them.
None of my children went into work that I was thrilled about.
I had to accept boyfriends I didn’t like. Jobs I didn’t like. Behaviors I didn’t like.
I was not always a Zen-like mom. Sometimes I would get really upset.
They all chose to pay their own way in life after college. They found jobs and lived within their means. They chose to be independent and their dad and I chose to accept them just as they were.
Here’s what I know now on the other side.
All their decisions were PERFECT for them.
My daughter that got a history degree but didn’t want to teach or have a “real” job.
She waitressed and bartended for years before reinventing herself as a mother, wife, and successful blogger who probably now earns more than her dad and I did together.
My artistic daughter who insisted on a practical degree in business, is now a successful executive.
I imagined her living the life of a poor artist or writer. She apparently had bigger dreams for herself than me!
While she has been a success story in her career, I can see her artistic nature in her clothes, her home, and in the way, she does things.
My third child who got an art degree and immediately became a fulltime bartender became one of the most successful and well-paid bartenders in town.
As I wondered what he would ever do besides that, he started a business with a partner and is an entrepreneur as well.
And trust me on this, I would never ever have picked his business for him. He found it himself, through his bartending and is now becoming a real-estate developer.
The point of this long story is this. If my kids had done what common wisdom (or their dad and I) had said they should do, they’d possibly be in mediocre jobs or just repeating what their dad and I did.
They used their 20’s to discover their own interests and path in life and exceeded by miles anything I could have ever even dreamed for them.
Take an Interest in Their Lives
As your children create their own lives—take an interest in them. Listen to what they have to say. Encourage them with your belief that they have what it takes to make it.
We often assume we know what our children are interested in. Or perhaps we nod and don’t really pay attention.
People, including your children, love to talk about what they are passionate about.
This can mean learning about what they do in their jobs, who their friends are, what they do for fun.
This is more than just “okay honey” once they are done talking. It also means asking questions and showing a genuine interest in their lives.
Create Your Own Life
To create your own life that you love is one of the best gifts you can give your adult child. It not only takes responsibility off them; it is a great example.
My own parents created an amazing life for themselves in their 60’s, 70’s, and my Mom is going strong with her own life in her 80’s.
My mom loves my friendship and company but she doesn’t depend on me for her happiness. She has her own friends, her own social life, her church activities, and her own hobbies. And she tutors school children 3 days a week!
It’s fun to be her friend because she has her own life that she enjoys so much.
I’d love to hang out with my own kids way more than we actually do.
However, I am grateful that we do get together often. In the meantime, I have to consciously create my own life and find other meaningful and social activities.
Here’s a secret. When you have a life, you love; you are more attractive to everyone, including your adult children.
Check out How to Create a Life You Love
Don’t Take Anything Personally
This is a BIG one. I’m going to give it to you straight. Your young adult and adult children are going to make many choices and decisions you don’t like.
You might even feel like their decisions are a slap in the face or are going against values you taught them.
I don’t care if that is what you think. Don’t take it personally.
Your children are humans as well as being your children. Their job is to figure out this thing called life themselves. It is NOT your job to tell them how to do it after a certain point.
And they aren’t doing the things they do to affect you. I promise you—they don’t want you to take what they do personally.
Reread the section above if you are having trouble with this. Concentrate on your own life and let them live theirs.
This ties in closely with not taking anything personally. As well as not taking it personally, don’t judge them for their choices.
Here’s the thing. You really don’t know what is best for your child. We can grieve for them. Pray for them. Love them.
Do all that but seriously, try not to judge. Life is messy at times. People make big mistakes.
And you know what? They often learn from things they do.
If you don’t judge them—you continue to be a person they can turn to. Judging is one of the best ways to ruin any friendship.
If you want your children to come to you, even in adulthood, it needs to feel open and nonjudgmental for them.
This can result in your children being able to approach you and ask for genuine life advice.
Be Willing to Be Wrong
Be, not only willing to be wrong but be willing to admit it.
Do you know how many families break up because someone doesn’t want to say they are wrong? Don’t be that person! Don’t paint yourself into a corner.
Here’s a secret. Being right doesn’t mean being happy. It doesn’t even usually mean that you are right.
Two people can see things totally differently. And that’s okay.
And don’t even do that smug, “Let’s agree to disagree.” That loophole doesn’t quite cut it either.
Try this. Say, “I’m really interested in your view too.” Then really listen until you get what they are saying.
For bonus points, don’t even bring up your rebuttal.
Be Inspired by Them
My children inspire me every time that I am around them. They have taught me to be less judgmental, to work harder, and to not hold grudges.
I told you their career stories a few paragraphs above.
Here’s what I didn’t tell you. I’m a blogger because my oldest daughter started hers first.
I work harder because I see how hard my second daughter works.
I believe I will be able to buy my own home someday because I saw my son buy his first home.
They have not just been amazing children—they are teaching me about life and achieving my own dreams and goals.
You can be inspired by your adult children too!
Love Them Anyway
Love feels good. The more love we have for another person, the better we feel.
Most of us have been raised to think that we feel love because of what another person does or maybe even doesn’t do.
You can love someone, even if you aren’t thrilled with what they are doing.
You can love someone even if they say they hate you.
You can love someone, even if you don’t see them.
Love is something you do for you.
This doesn’t mean you have to tolerate everything in your personal space.
An example of this would be, you have a solid boundary against people smoking or doing drugs in your home.
You can also choose to not be around them when they are using drugs.
That is a boundary.
Yet, you may have a child that smokes and does drugs in their own home.
You love them anyway.
That is unconditional love.
Save boundaries for the big stuff. Tolerate the annoying stuff. Let go of the irritating stuff.
Some children seem easier to respect than others. You know, your golden child.
And the “black sheep?” Not so much.
Here’s a secret. There are probably going to be times when your golden child falls out of favor. Set yourself up for success and respect all your children equally.
If I could show you the future in a crystal ball, you’d easily find respect for both children. You’d see everything that they go through.
You would see the obstacles they overcome.
You would see the people they stand by.
You’d see their impact on the world.
If you could see everything your child will go through in their lives—you would find it easy to respect them now.
I’m telling you to just do it now. Respect the adult that your child is, no matter what you think about how they are living their life.
This is only one small part of it—not the sum total.
Being Friends with Your Grown-Up Children
Here’s the amazing part of being friends with your adult children—it’s all about you managing your expectations, thinking, feelings, and actions.
Life is messy. Sometimes it may not go as well as you’d like. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, estrangements happen.
Sometimes we are blessed with grace to handle things. Sometimes we really have to manage our thinking and our feelings.
A few months ago, as we were preparing for Thanksgiving, I found out that ALL my children, all my grandchildren, and my ex-husband and his fiancé were going away for the entire holiday week.
Here in the US, Thanksgiving is a major family get-together holiday.
And for the first time in my life, I was going to have zero family in town.
This would have seemed a perfect time to get mad and throw a fit.
For whatever reason, I didn’t. I knew in my heart that no one had done this to hurt me. I did not love that I wouldn’t be a part of that time with them.
It wasn’t just the holiday, it was that it is so RARE for all of us to be together, that I grieved missing out.
Here’s how it turned out.
I traveled and spent the holiday with a single friend and her extended friend circle.
Because I hadn’t thrown a fit or acted out of disappointment about the holiday, I believe that I demonstrated control over my emotions and a certain level of maturity.
That allowed them to enjoy something they wanted to do without feeling too guilty.
For Christmas, we all spent it together. That’s a pretty good result in my book.
Yes, You Can be Friends with Your Adult Children
Just remember that these days they are adults and humans as well as being your children.
Also keep in mind, that they are here to fulfil their own personal destiny. They hopefully have long lives to live and so many things.
However, life can be short and we never know what the next day will bring.
It’s important to cherish, love, and respect your children exactly as they are right this moment.
Not how you WANT them to be.
Not WHEN they are finally acting like you think they should.
Nope, it’s gotta be at this VERY moment.
Because it is that love and true acceptance in any situation that creates a bond of friendship with an adult child.
Keep showing up my friends,
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Coach with Sara
Hi, I'm Sara Garska and I'm so happy you're here! My Think Big Life began shortly after I turned 50. Big changes can happen with a small start, an adjustment of thought, or a simple process. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a certified life and weight loss coach, I can help you create a life you love. Click here to schedule a free 50-minute coaching session.
Just found this post years later. Are you a therapist? Do you take clients? Thank you.
I’m a professional life coach who works with women to have better relationships with others, their food, and their bodies.
Hi Sara, I loved this post, especially where you said “When you have a life, you love; you are more attractive to everyone, including your adult children.” I totally agree with you on that. I am in that phase of moving into a more adult relationship with my 3 girls, and also coming to terms with my own journey. Thanks for writing this it has come at a great time for me.
You’re welcome! The best is yet to come.
Interesting topic and I admire your ways in which you have succeeded in this with your adult kids. I have to admit, as I continued to be ‘parented’ way past my adulthood by my father some of his behaviours continued with me. My husband is wiser but I was still MUM…sadly it has changed a lot in our family but, I have admitted where I went wrong to our kids and they have graciously accepted that I too am human.
I love my relationship with my adult children! We are the best of friends and are able to live separate lives while being totally supportive of each other, in both directions. My 30-something with 3 kids still comes to me as her first port of call for advice or toss ideas around, which is lovely, but it doesn’t mean she has to do as I say or think, I love being a mum to adults even more than I did as a mum to kids. Shared. #mstl
Hi Sara – this is a great post full of very useful advice – much of which we put into practice with our own adult children. Much like you, I’m so thrilled to see that they’ve made wonderful lives for themselves – our son followed a path that he’d had in his head from early high school, our daughter dabbled around and then ended up following the path everyone had suggested to her from early high school – I guess they all get to where they need to be, but often with a different pathway than we might have expected. I love that both are independent and have never drained us financially or emotionally – we must have done something right along the way! Now we have 2 grandgirls and are loving watching them being parented successfully too.
I have many problems with my 29 years old daughter.She scolds me if I don’t agree with her on any issues. She even told me that I am so ugly to show my face. She hates me very much. I cannot tolerate such pain. If possible pl suggest.
Your question would require more than replying here in the comments. I do offer free zoom discovery calls if you want to get more clarity about this. You can schedule one here if you want to do that. I can’t change your daughter but I can totally help you create boundaries and have your own back! https://CoachingwithSara.as.me/Discovery