How to Guide Adult Children Without Being Controlling

Mother and Father (Don't) Know Best

By far the biggest mistake parents make when trying to guide their grown kids is offering unsolicited advice, says Dr. Jennifer Freed, a psychotherapist and licensed marriage and family counselor. "It's infantilizing the adult," she says. "You're acting as if you know better than they do, and every adult child feels that's an insult to his self-respect and development."

Of course, it's easy to do, she acknowledges, since that's one of your roles when the kids are little. And most parents want their kids to continue to come to them for wisdom and comfort. "But your job changes when your kids are adults," says Freed. You need to have a more friend-oriented relationship where you brainstorm and discuss things, not hand down directives.

So hold your tongue when you feel like dispensing your wisdom. Instead, wait to chime in until your child asks for your advice -- and even then, only offer it if you're OK knowing he may or may not follow it. You're likely just one of many people and sources he's consulting before making a decision, and you simply can't take it personally if he disregards your advice.