As a parent, watching your grown children make choices that you perceive as harmful or unwise can be a heart-wrenching experience. It’s natural to want the best for your children, even when they’ve reached an age where they’re responsible for their own decisions.
Navigating this delicate situation requires a balance of understanding, communication, and respect. In this blog post, we’ll explore strategies for parents facing the challenge of guiding their adult children through bad life decisions.
Open The Lines Of Communication
It is natural that when things get uncomfortable or difficult, especially when it comes to family, that people tend to stop communicating as doing so can cause conflict, or even more tension and arguments. However, during this time is vital to keep the lines of communication open with your children (or child).
Approach them with empathy and a non-judgmental attitude. Create an environment where they feel comfortable discussing their choices without fearing criticism. By fostering an atmosphere of trust, you’ll be better equipped to understand their motivations and thought processes.
Don’t Control Them, But Offer Your Support
While it’s natural to want to shield your children from mistakes, it’s essential to remember that they’re adults capable of making their own decisions. Instead of imposing “your” will on them, offer them your support. Let them know that you’re there to listen, provide advice if they seek it, and offer a safety net should things go awry. This approach encourages autonomy while ensuring they have a safety net to fall back on.
This is very difficult to do. It is like watching a train wreck in slow motion but not doing anything about it. Sometimes your kids have to make bad decisions to learn how important it is to make good decisions.
Encourage Self Reflection
Help your adult children develop their critical thinking skills by encouraging them to reflect on their decisions AND the consequences of their decisions. Ask thought-provoking questions that prompt them to consider the potential consequences and benefits of their choices. Guide them to explore alternatives and consider whether their decisions align with their long-term goals.
Share Personal Experiences With Them
Share your own life experiences, including both successes and failures, to provide relatable perspectives. These anecdotes can illustrate that everyone faces challenges and setbacks, but it’s how we respond and learn from them that matters most. However, avoid using your experiences as a way to manipulate or control their decisions; instead, offer them as relatable stories that demonstrate growth and resilience.
Sharing personal experiences can be a very powerful way to get your point across and allow them to see how decisions can have a big impact on their life and future.
Set Boundaries With Them
If your adult children’s decisions are directly affecting your life or well-being, or your marriage, it’s acceptable to establish boundaries. Make it clear that while you respect their autonomy, certain behaviors or situations might have consequences for your relationship. Ensure that these boundaries are communicated calmly and respectfully, focusing on the impact of their choices rather than personal attacks.
Make sure that you are very clear with your boundaries, and ask them questions to make sure they understand and are clear on what your boundaries are, and what the consequences are for crossing those boundaries.
You may like this great article titled: What is the difference between rules and boundaries?
Boundaries with your kids can also protect your marriage. We did a great podcast episode titled: 109. What Are The Differences Between Rules And Boundaries… And Why You Should Consider Boundaries To Protect Your Marriage.
Encourage Them To Seek Professional Help
Sometimes, bad decisions can stem from deeper issues that require professional intervention. If you suspect your adult child is struggling with mental health, addiction, or other complex challenges, gently suggest seeking the guidance of therapists, counselors, or support groups. Assure them that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Lead By Example
Demonstrate positive decision-making and coping strategies in your own life. By leading by example, you provide a blueprint for how to navigate difficult choices and setbacks. Your own behavior can influence how your adult children approach their own challenges.
If you are encouraging your child not to drink alcohol, but they see you drinking alcohol, the “do as I say, not as I do” example doesn’t work. You have to lead by example.
Guiding your adult children through bad life decisions is a delicate dance that requires patience, understanding, and a healthy dose of humility. Remember that they are on their own journey of growth and discovery, and your role as a parent is to provide a supportive foundation. By fostering open communication, offering support without control, and sharing your wisdom, you can be a positive influence in their lives even when faced with challenging situations.
If you are looking for ways to improve your relationship with your spouse through better communication, intimacy and connection, check out the Utlimate Intimacy App! We can help! Find out why over 650,000 couples have downloaded the app and transformed their marriage.