How to Guide Adult Children Without Being Controlling

Tips for Successfully Guiding Adult Children

Although unsolicited advice and money are probably the top two issues that cause conflict with parents and their adult kids, there are a few more things to keep in mind when parenting adult children.

  • Don't interfere with your child's life unless asked. You may think you're helping your child if, say, you tell her that her brother really wishes she'd call him more, but it's not your business to do that. And both kids will likely resent you for it.
  • Steer your child to professionals when he has a problem. Be it financial, marital, spiritual or another type, your role isn't to swoop in and rescue him. It's to show him how to find answers. Even if he makes mistakes, that's part of the growing process -- a valuable part, actually.
  • Live your own life and let your child live his. Don't try to take on his successes or failures as your own. You are both your own people making your own decisions. And give your child the freedom to forge his own way without criticism. He's probably not going to make many -- or even any -- decisions just like you would have, and that's OK.
  • Openly discuss with your child how much contact you'll have. Will you see each other during the week? Do you want to talk on the phone several times a week? Is Sunday lunch with all the family not to be missed? If you both have vastly different expectations, compromise as you would with a good friend.

Even though once you're a parent, you'll always be a parent, you have a wonderful adult relationship with your kids to look forward to when they're grown. Check out the links below for more information about the parent-child journey.

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More Great Links


  • Bottke, Allison. "Parenting Adult Children: Six Steps to Sanity." Crosswalk. Aug. 4, 2009. (May 2, 2011)
  • Ende, Susan. Psychotherapist and co-author (with Gail Parent) of "How to Raise Your Adult Children: Real-life Advice for When Your Kids Don't Want to Grow Up." Personal interview. May 3, 2011.
  • Freed, Dr. Jennifer. Psychotherapist and licensed marriage and family counselor. Personal interview. May 3, 2011.
  • "Health: Steps to Independence: How to Get Your Adult Children Living on Their Own." Dr. Phil. (May 2, 2011)
  • Radcliffe, Sarah Chana. "Parenting Adult Children: Raise your kids without raising your voice." (May 2, 2011)
  • Segell, Michael. "New Rules for Parenting Grown-Up Kids: Why you may not want to give your 20-something advice, and other thorny issues explained." Prevention. (May 2, 2011)

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