nce that parenting button has been switched on it can never be switched off again. This is a fact of life, and you’ll always have that nagging sense of love and fear and pride in the back of your head as long as your kid is around.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing, but oftentimes the bad overshadows the benefits when your child reaches adulthood and develops their autonomy.

It can feel like your child doesn’t want you around, which isn’t true, they just don’t want you around all the time. 

There is so much you’re going to want to say to your child. Sometimes your wisdom needs to be imparted, but more often than you’d prefer they’re going to have to learn this life lesson by themselves. You can’t hold their hand through everything anymore, but you can offer support. Trust us, it will be needed.

Here are the five life-rules you need to master to best show your adult child you love them.

  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Make time for each other
  • Staying quiet
  • Acknowledging their partner
  • Learn to apologize

Each comes with its own hurdles, biting back on instinctive parenting tendencies, but with hard work and lots of deep breathing you can manage to improve your relationship with your child into one of healthy communication and surefooted love.

An older woman and her daughter sit at a kitchen counter making cookies. The daughter has a cookie in her mouth.
Showing love to your child as an adult deals both in hard and soft boundaries. 

Set healthy boundaries

Chances are that your child doesn’t live in your home anymore, and if they do you’re not seeing them every minute of every day. A far cry from when they were in diapers and you were together twenty-four seven.

The boundaries between a parent and child are more blurred than most other relationships, and sometimes people believe that this gives room to talk about anything and everything, at whatever time you want. This isn’t true. 

For one, you shouldn't be telling your adult child what to do and how to do it. They’re old enough to be figuring out this for themselves. Yes, they’ll mess up and probably create some problem that’ll have you reaching for that second glass of wine, but you did the same thing to your parents.

It’s all about the learning curve here, it’s just a fact of life. Here are a few guidelines to follow to stick to these healthy boundaries.

  • When it comes to money, give less and say less. If your child needs help with the expenses of course lend a helping hand, but don’t become such a reliant source of cash flow that they never go out and make any for themselves. 
  • Agree on a time limit for staying at home. Especially kids who have a source of income and aren’t using it to look for a place of their own, or somewhere with roommates. Unless your child absolutely needs your care and attention, they do not need to be living with you for so long. 
  • Don’t be the problem-solver. One, you can’t, and often the solution isn’t something you should be providing to them. Two, your child can easily get annoyed with this if you do it all the time.
A mother and daughter stand over a kitchen counter pulling out pasta from a pot.
Toss out your excuses, and theirs. Time can be made for family. 

Make time for each other

This one-time occurrence, one-time cancellation, can snowball into something worse if you both don’t start making time to see one another.

Sure, you and your child might be separated by hundreds of miles, by states and cities, even by continents, but that doesn’t excuse bailing on a phone call or video call you set up a week before.

Your child is probably busy with friends and their job and their relationship, when adulthood is new and blossoming it can seem like the only thing you have is energy and time, and your parents certainly aren’t at the top of your list of things to do and see.

But just because they’re not little anymore doesn’t mean that they don’t need to see you and that you don’t need to see them. 

The best way of getting around your busy schedules is to set up an activity to do together that you both enjoy and look forward to. Cooking, or game night, or a weekly dinner-out. Brunch even! Or you could both take care of some errands together and go on joint grocery shopping trips, hitting two birds with one stone. 

A woman in a black shirt looks off to the side with a hard expression on her face.
Learn what to say and when your advice will go headed if you save it for when it's needed. 

Staying quiet

Probably the hardest thing to do on this list for some parents, staying quiet when you so desperately want to express your thoughts on something when it comes to your child is a feat in itself. But by just listening and being supportive, is its own love language. 

Your adult child will tell you things about their life that are going to make your teeth grind, and sometimes you can’t resist putting in your two-cents.

But if you do this too often this can quickly lead to some annoyance on your child’s part, and even some angry conversations if it feels to them like you’re meddling too much in their affairs.

When they were a teenager they didn’t want you telling them what to do, but they were a minor so they had to. Now that they’re an adult they have the reins to their life in their own hands, and some of them just want to go wild with it. No matter how much that might scare you, you have to let them do it.

Adulting is a wild horseback ride down a dark and dangerous trail, hoping for the most part, that you know where you’re going. Don’t blind your kid with a searchlight, but guide them like a soft and gentle lantern, crossing your fingers that everything will be okay.  

A younger pair of people and an older pair of people share welcomign embraces.
The most important person in your child’s life, might not be you anymore. 

Acknowledging their partner

No, you are not going to like everything about your child’s partner. In fact, you might not like them at all. But you need to learn to keep some of the comments you so desperately want to express to yourself.

There is a time and place to say things about their partner. If they’re being mean or abusive to your child then by all means step in and say your peace, there’s no place for that in your life let alone your child’s. However, most of the time this isn’t the case, maybe your personalities just don’t click.

Whatever the reason maybe it doesn’t matter, because if they’re serious about being in your child’s life then that means they’re becoming a part of the family. On the bright side, no matter what you may disagree on, you probably do agree on one thing, you both love one person on this earth more than any other. 

Here are some ways to best accommodate your child’s partner.

  • Lower your expectations. Yes, you want the perfect person for your child, to sweep them off their feet into a happy ever after. But that's not how it works, people aren’t perfect, you aren’t and neither is your child, so don’t expect their partner to be either. 
  • Don’t feel threatened by how much time of your child’s they’re taking up. This is natural, it's going to happen, they are becoming the most important part of your child’s life, and so the time spent with you is going to be less. 
  • Money is a no-no topic to bring up. You might think that they’re in a relationship with your child for the money or the other way around, but unless you’ve explicitly heard this from one of them, stay out of it. Money is a touchy subject in general, best to leave it be here too. 
A mother and son share a tearful embrace.
The words “I’m sorry” can have more meaning than “I love you”. 

Learn to apologize

You’re going to have to be the bigger person, you know better because your child is going to be stubborn and not want to apologize. But more importantly, there are going to be times where you do something that you need to apologize for.

It may seem like as the parent you’re always on the side of right, you have all the wisdom, you’re used to the times when your child was in diapers and your word was law. Nowadays, not so much.

If you say something wrong or do something wrong or even speak in a tone that freaks your kid out, take a moment to relax and then apologize. Here are a few steps to help you get there when it's time.

  • Realize that there is something gone wrong between you, it's often hard to admit. Ignoring the issues between you and your child isn’t going to make them go away. Acting like everything is normal might drive the wedge between you further. 
  • Take ownership of your wrongs. Even if your child started the argument, you contributed to it and the iciness that’s come up between you. Acknowledge that you’ve played some part in this, and take responsibility for it. 
  • Try to meet on neutral ground. Go on a walk together, meet up for coffee, stay away from the scene of the crime, and do your best to hear your child out before chiming in. 
A mother and daughter hug and in between them their young infant grandchild is being held.
Your child’s success is your success, their happiness is your happiness.

There is nothing that warms your heart more than seeing your child grow and thrive to their best ability. Adulthood can be one hell of a wrench thrown your way, but with some carefully maintained guidance, you can help your child navigate it, with your love and support.

It’s not so easy once you get older to say “I love you” all the time, especially when your child might not be around you to hear it. But it deserves to be said and there are multiple ways to express your feelings to your child. Make sure you take the steps to do so. 

Feb 24, 2021