7 Hints for Communicating With Adult Children

Grandparents' Best Tool Is Tact

Tell it like it is -- sometimes! Most of the time, grandparents should use the opposite approach when communicating with adult children. The best way to bridge the generation gap is to use tact and to defer to the parent’s right to make child-rearing decisions. Here are seven guidelines for communicating with your adult children:

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Build a foundation of good feelings.

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Have fun with your adult children at every opportunity. Also praise your child's parenting skills whenever it is possible and appropriate. Simple statements such as, "I love how you explain things to Thomas," can be powerful in fostering the feeling that you approve of your child as a parent. And parental approval is probably still important to your adult child.

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Don't let family ties be an excuse for rudeness.

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The key to most interactions with adult children is to act as you would behave if the person were not related to you. Imagine that you are dealing with a younger adult with whom you are close, but who is not a part of your family. It may help you to have a particular person in mind. When you are considering saying something to your adult child, ask yourself, "Would I speak this way to Johnny?" If the answer is no, then don't say it, or say it in a different way. Our family members deserve at least the same courtesy that we extend to the world at large.

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Think before you talk.

Hispanic grandmother ponders how to say no.
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That is, of course, a good rule for almost every person in almost every situation, but it is also difficult for us all. Everyone at some time or another is going to say something he or she should not have said. Forgiveness is more likely, however, if we have built up a history of being kind and non-interfering.

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Don't make statements about how you raised your children.

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Such statements often have a built-in critical tone. You are allowed, however, to tell funny stories about how something you did as a parent backfired on you or to relate in a kind of "gee-whiz" manner some of the strange things parents used to do: "Can you believe I bought you a cap gun when you were three?" Otherwise, be aware that child-rearing philosophies and practices have changed since you were a young parent. Respect that. 

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Remember to listen.

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Half of communicating is composed of the messages you send out. The other half consists of the messages you receive. Some grandparents have trouble with that second half. Sometimes we're distracted. Sometimes we want to jump right in with our own ideas or solutions. Practicing listening skills can make almost any relationship healthier and happier.

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Love your adult child as well as your grandchild.

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Children sometimes humorously complain that once they provide us with grandchildren, they never get any attention. It's important to nurture your relationship with your adult children. Make it a point to relate to your child as an adult and discuss jobs, movies, politics and topics unrelated to your grandchildren. Do things with your children that don't involve the grandchildren. Appreciate them as adults.

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Have faith that your child will do a good job.

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After all, he or she had a great teacher!