It used to be so easy. You'd tell or show your children how to act or what to do, and they'd do it. (True, that's a total oversimplification, but you get the idea.) When your kids are off on their own, though, it's a whole new ballgame. You're not living with them anymore, so how do you know when they need you? This might sound strange, but everyday chitchat is the answer.
Depending on your parenting style (and your kids' personalities), you might talk to them every day, every few days, every week or every few weeks. But no matter how often this communication happens -- and whether it's in person, on the phone or over e-mail -- the crucial thing is to keep it up regularly. It shouldn't be a special occasion to have an honest conversation. If you're listening to and talking with your children, you might know something's wrong before they even tell you. And when you're communicating with them as equals, your advice won't seem overbearing or controlling.
Remember, too, that there will probably come a time when your roles reverse and your children are taking care of you, so keeping it open and friendly now will only make it better later. Don't be afraid to have those "big" conversations about money, illness, later-in-life care and, yes, death. Trust us -- doing it now will help you avoid a lot of problems and heartache.
Of course, there are going to be times when things aren't so easy and breezy. On the next page we'll talk about how to communicate with your adult kids in sticky situations.