How To Love Your Adult Kids Without Smothering Them

See the outstanding and mature individuals they have become.

Father hugging his adult son, loving without smothering pixelshot, lichaoshu | Canva

As the mother of two adult children and as a relationship and life coach, I, like many, strive for the delicate balance of loving my children but not smothering them. It takes self-awareness, a filter, and lots of self-control — but it's worth the effort.

One popular practice many older parents use is the “keep your lips sealed and your pocketbook open” mantra. The method may work for some, but money isn't necessarily what your children look for from Mom and Dad. Most adult children want their parents to respect their privacy and recognize their views and opinions may differ from those of their parents. And they especially want their feelings validated.


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Here's how to love your adult kids without smothering them.

1. Keep your boundaries in check

Until recently, I only thought about boundaries in terms of the physical ones between states and countries our grade school teachers taught us about in geography. In my journey to be more self-aware and improve the quality of my work and personal relationships, I learned about the boundaries psychologists and life coaches talk about. A parental boundary is "the line you draw around yourself to define where you end and where your child begins”. Parents tend to cross boundaries in their desire to fix things for their children. Instead of being a helicopter parent, swooping in at any sign of challenges or problems your adult child is experiencing, allow them to navigate struggles on their own — it's their journey now, not yours. Let them know you love and support them and are a phone call away if they need you.

@kimmuenchparentcoach Need a book on setting boundaries ? Try Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children by Allison Bottke available through Amazon. #foryoupage #parentingyoungadults #parentingcollegekids #parentingteens #settinghealthyboundaries #PowerDirector ♬ original sound - Kim Muench

If you want to have a meaningful relationship with your adult child, be sure you set clear and reasonable boundaries. Be aware of the lines they don’t want you to cross (like asking too many questions about their romantic life).

RELATED: 5 Common Reasons An Adult Child May Become Estranged From Their Parent, According To Experts

2. Be present and empathetic

I was taught a clever acronym to think of when speaking to my children: W.A.I.T., meaning "Why am I talking?"


W.A.I.T. is useful in all relationships and day-to-day encounters at work, home, shopping, etc. It helps us be present and empathetic and reminds us to stop and think about whether or not we are making something about ourselves when our children need our support.

Nancy Hathaway, M.Ed., talks about parenting mindfully and being in touch, aware, and present with our children with loving and non-judgmental attention. Our adult children may want to share a story about something that happened in their lives, but they are not necessarily looking for our advice or looking for us to fix things. My adult daughter told me last year she wanted me to listen and not offer advice or solutions. Listening improves our ability to be empathic.

3. Ask permission

Asking permission is a fabulous tool I learned about as a coach. I ask my clients for permission to start coaching, and to interrupt them if they go into story mode with lots of details. I do this to help them focus on their objectives in our limited session time. Asking your adult child if you may make a recommendation or share an experience will help you avoid crossing those boundaries. It also shows your child you respect them and acknowledge they are in control of their life.

Fahter and adult have love without smothering Hananeko_Studio via Shutterstock


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4. Actively listen

Active Listening is more than just listening — it's about being mindful when you listen. It’s a tool used in parenting, therapy, education, customer service, and professional and personal relationships to facilitate and improve communication.

Manuela Heberle, a faculty member at Park University explains, "Active listening goes beyond just listening — it means being attentive to what someone else is saying. The goal of active listening is to understand the feelings and views of the person. Active listening is used in the therapeutic setting, and it's an essential component of effective communication.”

@kimmuenchparentcoach Your adult children need your best listening skills and support, not for you to fix their problems. Follow for more on parenting kids 18+. #fyp #parentingyoungadults #parenting #parentingadults ♬ original sound - Kim Muench

Try out these 4 tools with your adult children and you will see the outstanding and mature individuals they have become.


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Ellen Kamaras is a life and organizational coach whose specialties include: relationship-coaching for singles, individuals seeking to reinvent themselves, empty-nesters looking for new purpose and fulfillment, and individuals who want to get “unstuck” but are afraid to take risks.