Developing a Relationship with Your Adult Child

Everybody changes as they mature. Even as an adult, you are not the same exact person as you were 20 or even 10 years ago. Your interests change, your wisdom and understanding matures, and your experiences shape your outlook on life.

In the same sense, your children are growing and changing, even once they reach adulthood. And because of this, your relationship with them must evolve as well. While it may seem comfortable to continue treating your young adult as a teenager, you must learn how to relate to them in a new way as they grow into adulthood.

In their book, Parenting Your Adult Child, authors Drs. Ross Campbell and Gary Chapman provide the following guidelines in building a relationship with your adult child. And while you can’t force a quality relationship with your young adult, you can create an environment in which a positive relationship can grow.

Realize Your Part

Many times moms become frustrated when their sweet, compliant child begins exerting independence and willfulness during adolescence. And by the time the teenager reaches young adulthood, the mother feels powerless in the relationship. If you find yourself saying statements such as, “If only my daughter would stop hanging around the wrong people, she’d be easier to get along with,” or “If only my son would return my calls more often,” then remind yourself that you have far more power in this relationship than you give yourself credit for.

Drs. Campbell and Chapman encourage, “Your attitude, words, and behaviors do influence your child every time you are together.…As parents, we must take responsibility for our own power of influence and stop blaming our children for the bad relationship. We are older and more mature. Our children are on the front end of life, still trying to learn. We can go a long way in creating a good climate in which that learning can take place.” So the next time your college student comes home for a visit wearing another ear piercing or strange hairstyle, focus on telling your child you’re happy she’s home instead of criticizing her style.

You may not understand some of your young adult’s choices in style or music or friends, but don’t let your relationship become contingent on him to “grow out of this phase.” Work on building a positive climate for a relationship now — regardless of your child’s choices and mistakes.

Grow in Confidence

Sometimes confidence in parenting seems like an unreachable goal. But the closer you come to complete confidence, the more your children will benefit from it. Drs. Campbell and Chapman explain, “Confident parents do all in their power to help their children mature. They place genuine importance on their children’s feelings and thoughts, and let them know that those opinions and feelings are deeply important.” Basically, confidence in parenting will manifest itself in wanting to truly know and understand your children, and in learning how to grow in your own parenting skills to adjust to the changing dynamics of your relationship.

Are you a confident mother? Are you willing to guide your young adults in the way that is most meaningful to them in order that they may grow into mature adults? Or are you fearful of losing their love once they get out into the world, and are struggling to let them go?

While giving your children their independence once they reach adulthood may seem like losing your place in their lives, confident parenting will tell you that supporting your young adults in their independence will actually lead to a more fulfilling relationship. You may even find yourself enjoying the friendship aspects of your changing relationship with your adult children.

Show Your Love

In Dr. Chapman’s Five Love Languages series, he explains that every person is unique in how they express love and desire to be shown love. Showing your children love doesn’t stop when they leave the house. Continue to make sure your children know they are loved unconditionally. If you haven’t learned their love languages yet, invest the time in understanding them.

For a detailed explanation of the five love languages, read the full article here. Basically, if your young adult seeks love through words of affirmation, he will thrive on words of appreciation and thanks, genuine compliments, and saying you are proud of him. If your young adult feels love through gifts, be sure to send plenty of care packages or little mementos to let your child know you’re thinking of him. If your child responds best to acts of service, offer to dog-sit while he is out of town, or offer to bring over some homemade soup when he is sick. People who seek quality time will want focused attention when they are talking and special outings together. If your child’s love language is physical touch, be sure to give him plenty of hugs and pats on the back when you see him.

 Concluding Thoughts

If you’re still not sure you’re up to “confident parenting” with your adult child, take heart in these encouraging words from the authors: “Some of us have forgotten how to be confident in a fallen world. Parenting has changed just as our world has changed. Our children have grown and we keep having to learn the next lessons. By this time, we are well aware of the mistakes we have made and that we are far from perfect parents. And yet, we can go on to greater maturity and be ready to make the necessary changes for the future. And we can help our children move to maturity as well.”


This article is based on the book, Parenting Your Adult Child: How You Can Help Them Achieve Their Full Potential, by Drs. Ross Campbell and Gary Chapman. Click here to order this book from

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