Talking with your adult child can be exhausting sometimes, and like most parents, you’ve realized that you don’t have as much control over your grown child as you once did. The dynamics of your relationship have changed, so your communication needs to change too.
Yelling, talking down, and other controlling behaviors need to give way for mutual respect and understanding. As you probably already experienced, this transition isn’t an easy one. To help you with that, I’ll share some practical tips on how to communicate better with your grown son.
If you want to be there for your son without being overbearing, I recommend applying the strategies in this guide.
How to Communicate Better With Your Grown Son
First things first, there is no magic bullet to completely eliminate conflict from parent-child relationships. That’s my way of saying your relationship with your adult son will most likely experience a few bumps occasionally ― it happens in all relationships, including healthy ones.
However, when you apply the following strategies, chances are you’ll both enjoy a thriving relationship filled with support and understanding.
1. Talk With Your Son as an Equal Adult
This can be difficult for many parents, but your son is no longer a little kid, so he deserves to be treated like a capable adult. And treating him with respect starts with talking to him like you would an adult.
Be ready to show by your words and actions that you value his perspectives.
Whatever you do, avoid dismissing his opinions or concerns, even if you think he is off track. Avoid dismissive remarks, such as:
- “Stop overreacting; it’s not a big deal.”
- “That’s not important. Let’s talk about something else.”
- “I don’t have time for this right now; figure it out yourself.”
- “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Constantly brushing off your son this way will eventually take a toll on his confidence and self-esteem. While he may not break all ties with you (some adult children do), he might avoid you whenever he can, and that will create cracks in your relationship.
Rather than invalidating or diminishing your son’s thoughts and feelings, do your best to acknowledge and validate his opinions, even if you don’t quite agree with him. This way, everyone feels heard, understood, and respected.
And this ties in perfectly with the next strategy for improving communication with your adult son.
2. Encourage Open Conversations
Whenever you and your grown son have frequent disputes or communication gaps, someone probably feels judged.
Of course, many parents don’t intentionally set out to be judgmental, but children are quick to read between the lines when parents come into the conversation with preconceived notions.
You may not realize it, but imposing your opinions or jumping to conclusions is a clear sign of being judgmental, especially when discussing sensitive topics with your grown child.
The good news is that you can turn this around by creating a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere where your adult child can freely express himself without fear of harsh criticism.
Does this mean you should compromise your beliefs or set aside your values?
Of course not!
It is perfectly okay to hold a different viewpoint from your son. The most important thing is not to let those differing views get between you. In fact, letting your son have their own perspective is a sign of democratic parenting, and that’s a good thing!
In a nutshell, here’s how to encourage open conversation with your grown son:
- Listen with an open mind during discussions with your son, especially when he shares something you don’t quite agree with.
- Be open to learning about his perspective. Be genuinely curious to know why he thinks differently than you.
- Put yourself in your son’s shoes to understand where he is coming from.
These simple steps can make your adult child feel comfortable enough to openly share his thoughts, feelings, and concerns with you.
3. Learn and Practice Effective Communication Skills
Like most people, you’ve probably heard about effective communication. There’s a reason the topic pops up in nearly all discussions about communication: it works, plain and simple.
The key to effective communication is to be straightforward when expressing your thoughts and feelings. Be respectful but direct when talking with your son. Don’t expect him to read your mind or catch subtle hints.
Here’s another crucial tip on how to communicate better with your grown son: give him your full attention during conversations.
Keep the following in mind during conversations:
- Let your son know you hear him loud and clear (whether or not you agree). You can do this through body language by nodding and making eye contact.
- Avoid interrupting him when he shares something important with you. Don’t chime in with your opinions, even when he is silent for a bit (perhaps to collect his thoughts). Indeed, your thoughts are important but don’t interject midway while he is speaking. Allow him to make his point before expressing your thoughts.
- Ask clarifying questions, especially if you don’t fully grasp his point. You can summarize what you heard and ask if that’s what he meant.
- Allow him to throw more light on whatever may sound confusing.
Lastly, be assertive but calm when you talk with your grown son. You want to avoid being aggressive or defensive, especially when discussing sensitive topics.
4. Think of Your Grown Son as Your Friend
How do you relate with your close buddies (if you’re a father) or gal pals (if you’re a mother)? Your communication and relationship become more beautiful when you adopt this approach with your adult child.
If they don’t live with you, make time to visit them and create awesome memories with them and their kids ― your grandkids ― if they have children.
Spend time with them whenever possible, and make sure the time spent with them is nothing short of quality time. This way, you make room for meaningful conversations that keep your bond strong.
Bonus Tips: Improving Connection With Your Adult Son
Knowing how to communicate better with your grown son is a lot easier if you’ve both enjoyed a healthy relationship. However, if things aren’t all that great between you and your son, you’ll need to do a little bit of relationship fixing to improve your communication.
That’s not to say you won’t find the following tips helpful if you already have a great relationship with your grown son. If anything, these bonus tips can strengthen your parent-child bond.
- Listen to what’s important to your son: Parents often complain about their adult children not talking to them. On the other hand, teenagers and grown-up children say their parents hardly listen to them. If this happens between you and your son, there’s a clear disconnect in how you relate. The quickest way to resolve this is by listening to your son. Pay attention to what he cares about, even if you think it’s irrelevant. Listening and showing genuine interest in what your son has to say bridges the gap between you and improves your connection.
- Recognize and respect your son’s adult status: Release the need to control your son’s every move or decision. No doubt, he is your son, but he’s all grown up now and should be treated with respect. Adopt an adult-to-adult approach when you speak with him, meaning you should learn to respect him like any other reasonable adult. Don’t try to force your views on him. He will be more open to your advice if he feels you accord him the respect he deserves.
- Be okay with your son’s choices: Wouldn’t it be great if your son did everything just like you? However, the reality is that he will do some things differently than you, and that’s regardless of how strongly you feel about those things. Make peace with this fact, and it will be a lot easier to see “eye to eye” with him on things he considers important.
- Be responsive when your son reaches out: Seize every chance you get to show your son how much you value him. One way to do this is by being attentive and promptly responding to him. He may have a hard time sharing his feelings with you, especially if you haven’t had the best relationship. But whenever he makes an effort to connect, respond as quickly as possible. This tells him (more than any words can) that you want to connect with him.
Hopefully, you’ve found these suggestions on how to communicate better with your grown son helpful.
Indeed, it takes quite an effort to stop seeing your adult son as that adorable little boy who once solely depended on you for guidance and direction.
However, you must be willing to make that mental shift to maintain a healthy relationship with your grown son.