Six Practical Ways to Show Love to Your Adult Children

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell
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collage of empty nester parents with their adult children

Want to do a better job of showing love to your adult children? No matter what age they are, our kids need to know we love them. It’s just as true when they’re adults as it was when they were kids! Your expressions of love are going to look different, for sure, but it’s more important than ever that you show them your approval and love. I’m sharing six practical ways that you can show love to your adult children.

1. Be their Cheerleader

Everybody needs an “attaboy” sometimes! Your adult kids need to know that you have full confidence in them and in their ability to handle challenges and adversity. (After all, I’m 55, and I still want to hear it from my 80-something-year-old parents! ????) Say things like, “You’ve got this! It may be challenging but because you’re the kind of person that ______(list positive character qualities here)______, I know you’ve got what it takes to handle this.” They won’t handle every situation perfectly as they learn and grow, but you can always encourage them by pointing out what they’re learning and how that knowledge will help them the next go-’round.

2. Be Generous

I’m not necessarily talking about money! Be generous with your time, your resources, and your support. When our son and his wife moved to a new apartment, we blocked the date off on our calendar so we could help. It might not have been our favorite way to spend a Saturday, but it was a tangible way that we could serve them. Over the course of the day, the four of us had lots of laughs and meaningful conversations, and it gave us ample opportunity to build them up and encourage them. We said things like, “I love this _____(name of furniture or accessory)_____. You have such great taste!”

One practical way to show love to your adult kids is to take them on short trips one at a time. In fact, we actually love going on couple trips with our son and daughter-in-law. We’re headed up to Broken Bow, Oklahoma with them in a few weeks!

3. Keep Your Opinions to Yourself (Mostly!)

When your kids become adults (and especially when they get married), be sure that you establish and maintain healthy boundaries with them. Remind yourself that the growing-up process may be a little bit of a hot mess! They’re going to stumble around as they learn to figure things out on their own. There really are no shortcuts when you’re learning to “adult.”

It will be hard to watch sometimes. They’ll handle some things well, and some, not so much. In many situations, you will see the writing on the wall before they do and you’ll be able to predict (with ah-mazing accuracy) what is probably going to happen. Resist the urge to intervene (although that will be your default setting!). If it’s a matter of safety and you absolutely must, be sure to ask their permission first.

If there’s something they’ve brought up to you before and you feel the need to circle back, you could try saying something like, “I’ve been thinking about what you said the other day about ____ (situation, person) _____. I’ve had a couple of thoughts!” (Insert big smile here????, which should hopefully make them either laugh or roll their eyes!) Then ask them if they’d like to hear your thoughts. Tell them, “You can say ‘no.’ If you don’t want to hear it, that’s fine.” (BTW, none of mine have ever said no!)

4. Be a Good Listener

Always ask about them first. Say things like, “How was your day? How did everything work out with _____ (situation, person)_____?” Let them talk and ask follow-up questions if it’s appropriate and they seem open to it.

Whatever you do, DO NOT bring your own agenda, emotional baggage, or neediness into the conversation. Do not vent about your struggle with the empty nest or the fight you got into with their dad! You’re the (older) adult. Show love to your adult kids by acting like it. If you need to unload on someone, call a friend or look into counseling.

Be sure to let them be the “experts” and even show off a little by telling you about their latest success, how hard they’re working, how much stress they’re under, etc. It will give you a chance to be their cheerleader! (See #1.) I tell my two unmarried kids that I’m always here to “hold the bucket” for them. Even if they just want to call me and vent (or celebrate a success) for 5 minutes, I’m happy to be that person for them—with no agenda.

5. Speak It

Tell them you love them. If they’re embarrassed, shorten it to “Love ya!” and say it even more often! Don’t assume they know how you feel. Expressing your love in words is never, ever wrong and showing it in their primary Love Language is even better. And when you speak it, honor them by doing it in their preferred mode. That means doing things like texting (instead of calling) or sending thoughtful or funny GIFs.

6. Pray for Them

Pray for your kids and tell them that you’re praying for them. Prayer is simply talking to our loving Heavenly Father. He established it as the means by which we receive his supernatural help. Not sure how to do it? The post I wrote on how I pray for my adult kids is a favorite of Empty Nest Blessed followers! You can check it out HERE. I think it’s the absolute best way to show love to your adult children.

Want more? You might find these posts helpful:

HOW TO BLESS & ENCOURAGE YOUR ADULT CHILDREN (PLUS, A FREE PRINTABLE!)

WHAT YOUR 20-SOMETHING WANTS TO TELL YOU (AND NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU)

EIGHT PRACTICAL WAYS TO BE A GREAT PARENT TO YOUR ADULT KIDS

FIVE WAYS TO BUILD THE RELATIONSHIP YOU WANT WITH YOUR ADULT CHILDREN

No matter what their age, your adult children need your love, encouragement, and support. How do you express love to your adult kids? I’d love to know your tips in the comments below.

I’ve linked a few of my favorite resources to help you as you show love to your adult kids. These have all been helpful to me. Know that after years of giving instruction and advice to our kids while they were growing up, the shift that parenting adult kids requires doesn’t come naturally! It will take effort on your part.

Click on any image below for more information.

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Suzy Mighell

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12 Comments

  1. Thanks for this great reminder, Suzy! My husband and I coach each other every week on how to deal appropriately with our 4 adult children. It can be a challenge!???? Especially when we think our way is the better way!???????? However, the ultimate goal is to preserve and protect the relationship, so that means stepping back sometimes and simply praying and cheering them on! Being available by phone or in person is a great gift that they probably won’t fully appreciate for a few more years. I like to remember how I felt and thought back in my 20’s ( and cringe a little at a few memories!????) and that helps me to better handle where my 20-somethings are coming from….except with modern tech added in!!
    You are an encouragement to me!

  2. Betsie,

    Thank you for your kind comment! I have to tell you, Bob and I “coach” each other too! My style is a little more interventionistic! Bob’s is organic! Hopefully when we “coach” one another, we come out somewhere in the center! Hahaha!

    You are so right that is helps to remember what life was like when we were 20-somethings. Tech makes it so much more challenging for them. (Post upcoming on that!)

    Thanks for taking the time to share your ideas. So wise!

    xoxo
    Suzy

  3. I like your term, “interventionistic!” Sounds so much nicer than bossy!!! LOL!!! I’m claiming that one for my own!! 🙂

  4. I love your ideas in this post, Suzy! Such a good reminder that our children need our love and acceptance much more than our advice (unless they ask for it!). I have tried to keep my opinions to myself since our daughter got married a few years ago. Being too overbearing will just push them away. I try to focus on enjoying her and our son-in-law, and our two little cutie-pie granddaughters!

  5. Holly,

    Thank you for your sweet comment. I’m so happy to share my experience/mistakes! Hahaha! It’s hard to keep our opinions to ourselves – especially after years of not having to do that!

    You sound like a wise and wonderful grandma! Enjoy those special times!

    xoox
    Suzy

    1. Suzy, I’m fairly new to your blog and I LOVE it! Thank you for this post. Not many people even talk about parenting adults and we need it! My 2 girls are young adults (19 & 22) and we recently had a difficult family disagreement that broke my heart terribly. I learned so much during that time of reflection, though! God really spoke to me & led me to that first book you shared -“Doing Life With Your Adult Children” by Jim Burns. I’m reading it now and learning how to be the parent they need at this point in their life. I wish the Bible touched on parenting more! ???? I don’t know how many times my husband & I have said that! (Jesus, take the wheel!!????) Anyway, thank you dearly for this post– and I’m so thankful (and blessed) to have found your blog. ❤

  6. Amy,

    Thank you so much for your sweet comment! It made my day!

    I wish more people talked about “parenting” adult children – maybe there wouldn’t be so much discord! I love that book by Jim Burns, and I’m so glad you like it too!

    The verse that has meant the most to me in parenting my adults is James 1:19: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Also, a smile can go a long way, as well as making fun of yourself with your kids!

    You sound like a great mama! Welcome to Empty Nest Blessed! I’m so very happy you’re here!

    xoxo,
    Suzy

  7. I’m pretty good at 4 out of the 6 . But thank you so much for the reminders of the other 2 . How true they are. Having had some difficult times this helps me to be a better mom to my 3 daughters 36-34-32.

    1. Kimberly,

      I think 4 out of 6 is really good! This parenting adult kids deal takes some serious work! Keep up the good efforts, sweet girl, and know that we’re all in this together.

      Thanks for your comment!

      xoxo
      Suzy

  8. My son won’t come to see me because I don’t like his wife.
    He should at leadt come by himself to see me

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