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How to Guide Adult Children Without Being Controlling


Graduation from college is often the time when parents begin to recognize their children as adults.
Graduation from college is often the time when parents begin to recognize their children as adults.
BananaStock/Thinkstock

Parenting is tricky business. For the first 20 or so years of your child's life, your job is to teach and guide him, often giving unsolicited advice or overriding his choices. Then comes the day he's grown and on his own, and you have to loosen your grip and get to know your kids as independent adults. It's not easy.

"Parents have such a hard time letting go of their control," says Dr. Jennifer Freed, a psychotherapist and licensed marriage and family counselor. It's not that they're trying to butt in because they think their child is incapable; it's because they're concerned about their child's welfare and think they can help by sharing their experiences. Except it often doesn't come across this way because they're still treating their child as, well, a child. And everyone needs to make his own mistakes and learn from them -- that's part of a person's necessary and ongoing growth process.

So how do you help guide your grown kids without being a bossy nag they resent? For starters, you must learn to treat your child more like an adult friend than your kid. You also might have to lower your expectations on everything from the frequency of your contact to her accomplishments and learn to bite your tongue. A lot. But the rewards are definitely worth it. By learning how to gently support and steer your big kid(s), you'll all enjoy a healthy, happy relationship, no matter what form it takes.

Read on for a more detailed blueprint on how to guide your grown kids.