By Melodie Veldhuizen
Many parents of adult chidren sometimes forget that their children have become independent, can make their own decisions and can think for themselves. This affects the way in which we communicate with them and sometimes it spoils the parent-child relationship.
“If it is our aim to promote a sound, adult relationship with our adult children, we should consider adjusting the way we communicate with them.” (Pope Goris, 2007:72)
In order to avoid friction and strengthen your relationship with your adult children, keep the following in mind:
- Create a foundation for positive communication by praising them for what they are doing right in your eyes, such as the way they raise their children. Your approval is still important to them.
- Family ties are no reason for inconsiderate or derogative communication.
- Think before you speak, the same as when you are talking to any other adult.
- Do not make remarks about how you raised your own child(ren). However good your intentions may be, such remarks usually conceal some criticism.
- Adult children may feel rejected if you ignore them and only pay attention to the grandchildren. Talk to them about “adult stuff” ─ anything except the grandchildren’s wellbeing and education.
- Listen attentively, without interrupting or being ready with a reply or advice even before he or she has stopped speaking. Remember, 50% of communication consist of the messages you send out; the other 50% are the messages you receive.
- Regular communication about everyday things ─ whether in person, by telephone or by means of text messages ─ keep the communication channels open. It makes it easier to talk about contentious issues, when necessary.
- Hold back your advice until your child asks for your advice or opinion and be careful with what you say and how you say it. Remarks such as “But I warned you” or “Someday you will see things the way I see them” are taboo. This is the quickest way of terminating the conversation or putting your child on the defence. She will never again feel free to discuss contentious matters with you.
- Talk to your adult children, don’t address them as you would younger children.
How do I know that I’m on safe ground?
Pope Goris advises that parents should constantly be asking themselves the following questions:
- Am I giving unasked-for advice?
- Am I bombarding them with questions about their personal lives?
- Am I listening attentively and does my body language and facial expression confirm it?
- Am I constantly interrupting them to give my own opinion?
- Do I ask permission to make suggestions or give advice?
- Am I ascertaining exactly what they need or expect of me?
- Do I take exception if they don’t visit or communicate regularly?
- Do I criticise everything they do and say?
- Do I speak to them as I would to other adults I respect?
- Am I constantly prescribing, judging, expecting, rolling my eyes, folding my arms or storming out of the room out of frustration or disgust?
- Do I use “I” messages instead of “you” messages?
- Do I know when to speak and when to keep quiet?
- Will my way of communicating contribute to a sounder and stronger relationship with my child?
Take note of the following:
Your child will probably let you know in some way when your communication style rubs her up the wrong way. Be on the lookout for it, respect it and work on it.
- A humoristic remark
- An annoyed sigh or irritated tone of voice
- Body language that says everything, like rolling eyes, folded arms
- A gentle word
- A biting remark
- An open request
- Break off all contact
Enjoy the beautiful and positive relationship that will result from healthy communication between you and your adult children.
How Stuff Works. https://lifestyle.howstuffworks.com/family/parenting/parenting-tips/how-to-talk-with-adult-children1.htm
Live About. https://www.liveabout.com/hints-for-communicating-with-adult-children-1695831
Pope Gorris, Martha. 2007.Ouerwees vir jong volwassenes. Lux Verbi. BM.