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How to Have Hard Conversations With Your Adult Children: Your boundaries matter

Article by Marie Miguel

how to have difficult conversations with grown up children image

When your children grow up

It’s easy to view your children as staying the same or always being “your baby,” but the reality is that our kids grow up into adults. The relationships between children and parents change. Having adult children can be complicated; you want to remember them as being dependant on you, but they’ve hopefully individuated from you and are living their own lives. Even if your children are still involved in your life, and you have grandkids, the dynamic has changed, and it’s important to remember that there will be difficult conversations that arise as you age.

Having hard conversations

Some conversations with your kids are lighthearted and fun, while others are hard. You and the dynamic your adult child will be different as they get older, and there may be times when you have to set boundaries. Say that your adult child expects you to babysit regularly. Sure, you love spending time with your grandkids, but you also deserve time to relax and enjoy retirement. It’s a difficult thing to put your foot down because you love your kids, and you want to spend time with the next generation of your family, but you’ve worked hard and deserve to enjoy your leisure time. One of the ways that you can frame this conversation is by using the sandwich technique, say something positive, then something constructive, and end on a positive note. You can say, “I love spending time with my grandchildren, but I sometimes need time to myself because I get tired easily. I’d love to help out when I’m able to because I love being enriched by spending time with my grandchildren.” The sandwich technique is a great way to have an awkward conversation and frame it positively.


For any relationship, boundaries are essential. You have a right to set limits with others if something doesn’t make you feel comfortable. It’s not easy to say no sometimes, but it’s necessary. If you raise your children in an environment where you didn’t say “no” to them often, it can be challenging to implement boundaries now. That said, it’s essential to do so for your health and theirs. You may want to talk about what your needs are in your retirement, or you might need to talk about the tough stuff such as setting up your living will. Maybe, they’re bringing up ideas that you aren’t comfortable with regarding your retirement plans, but you struggle to speak up about what you want or set a boundary. It’s okay to say “no” and let them know what you’d like to do instead. You’re not beheld to anyone, even your children, if you don’t feel comfortable with a specific topic or plan. Setting boundaries is good for your relationship with your adult child. It can further your connection with them and enrich both of your lives because you’ll know what the other person wants, what they can do, and what they can’t do.

Encouraging individuation

Watching your child grow up, you’ll see them grow less and less dependent on you. It’s crucial to encourage that because as confusing or scary as it is to see them branch out, it’s a normal and healthy part of life. It can be thrilling for both of you to watch the person you raised embrace life and their successes. When you see your adult child doing something that is spreading their wings, as difficult as it may be for some parents, it’s important to praise them.

Seeking therapy to discuss issues with getting older

If you’re having trouble confronting or discussing difficult topics with your adult child, one place that you can do this is with a therapist. Whether you see a mental health professional online or in your local area, some therapists specialize in talking to older adults. You’re not alone in this. Many people are going through what you’re going through and seeking the help of a mental health professional can guide you through this process.

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression



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