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Keep Having Conversations with Adult Children

Honest communication is key to any relationship. As your child becomes an adult, it’s important to continue listening and encouraging open dialogue without blaming, even when they - or you - make mistakes. Listening builds trust and compassion, which is the cornerstone of connectedness and positive influence. You are still a protective factor in your adult child’s life and can help them learn how to cope successfully with life’s challenges, make healthy choices and use their inner resilience.

Here’s an example of a helpful conversation between a parent and an adult child that deals with drug use. This parent is managing their own reactions and using active listening skills while maintaining a non-judgemental standpoint. Notice how the parent helps the adult child take responsibility without telling them what to do.

Parent: Wow! It’s good to have you home for a bit.
Adult Child: Yeah, I just needed to get away.
Parent: So how long are you going to be able to stay?
Adult Child: Well, actually I quit my job and I’m not sure.
Parent: I know you weren’t happy there. What led to the decision?
Adult Child: To tell the truth, I kinda got messed up on drugs.
Parent: (calmly) Drugs.
Adult Child: Yeah. It started when I hurt my back and was on those pain meds. With all the stress at work, they just seemed to be a good way to unwind in the evening. So when my prescription ran out I started buying stuff on the street.
Parent: Umm, so what do you think you’ll do now?
Adult Child: Honestly I don’t know. I just needed a place to sort myself out.
Parent: Well I’m glad you came home. Do you think you can deal with this on your own?
Adult Child: I think so. I am not addicted or anything!
Parent: Well if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. You know we love you and are here for you, but, at the same time, we cannot live your life for you.
Adult Child: I know. But thanks for the support and letting me stay for a bit. I think I’ll go see Dr. Jones and see what he suggests.

You know you’re practicing good listening skills when you can strip away your reactions to the conversation and the allowing the other person’s story to flow and find its own form of resolution.

Showing your support and your comfort with open and honest conversations will help your adult child feel safe to ask for help when they are in a difficult situation. Avoid anger, judgement and criticism, and be mindful of your emotional reactions to keep the conversations going. Talk straight, don’t blame, and don’t shame your child when they are in a sticky situation. By talking over the options, you can help your adult child make healthy choices and help them to make their own action plan to get over challenges.

For More Information

For more information about how to talk to your adult children about substance use and overdose, see the following parenting articles:

Last Reviewed: December 2016