Last week, I wrote my blog on “How to Listen So Your Kids Will Talk,” which focused primarily on kids who are still at home. Once your kids become adults, the rules for listening well change. I thought today I’d focus my blog on listening to your adult kids in order to foster a good relationship with them.
Proverbs 31:28 talks about kids who grow into adulthood and call their parents blessed. It’s a verse that has always intrigued me. I knew I wanted strong relationships with each of my kids when they became adults, but I made a lot of mistakes! (Thankfully my kids are fantastic at forgiving.) As my kids got older I realized that all the parenting rules change. As I learned, I had to apologize often. And, quite honestly, I am still on that journey. I strive to listen well, but I still mess up. The most beneficial thing I can do in those moments is apologize and start over.
Along the way I’ve learned three “rules” for listening to adult kids:
- Silence Your Inner Fixer. When my adult kids share a problem with me, they are not looking for me to “fix” their problem. They’re looking for prayer and a listening ear. I learned quickly that if you don’t want your adult kids to get annoyed, you shouldn’t offer advice unless you’re asked! It’s hard. I get it. You have more experience than them, and it’s so easy to dive in and offer a solution, but that’s not what they want. Just as you had to learn through your mistakes, they need the opportunity to do that as well. If you find that your kids don’t want to open up to you anymore, I dare you to ask them to rate you as a listener. Their answer may be tough, but if you humble yourself and take it to the Lord, He’ll show you how to change. At the end of the day what you really want is strong relationships with your kids.
- Avoid Diving In With Your Own Story. It’s so easy. I’ve done it too often. Your adult kids open up about a problem and you dive in with, “Well, back in the day you should have seen how hard it was for me.” Or, “Well you should have seen our first home it was a mess!” Take it from one who has made this mistake: they don’t need to hear your “back in the day” stories. Keep the conversation focused on them and their needs. If they ask you how you handled things back in the day, then share your stories—otherwise, skip it and empathize.
- Respect Their Boundaries. Boundaries are simply the invisible lines that define us and separate us from others. As far as adult kids go, they will put boundaries around topics they want to discuss with you and topics they’d rather not. When they were little they might have shared everything with you, but now that they’re adults they’re not going to tell you every detail of their lives—and that needs to be okay. In order for them to become healthy adults, they need to establish clear boundaries. For example, they’ll need boundaries around their marriages. Their spouse needs to be the first person they open up to. They likely will not discuss their marriage problems with you, and that’s better for their marriage and your relationship. Every adult draws boundaries where they feel a need in order to thrive spiritually and emotionally—so honor your kids and respect their boundaries.
Question: What have you done to silence your inner fixer with your adult kids? Leave a comment and you could win a prize! This week I’ll be choosing one comment and that person will win a Starbucks gift card!!