How to Apologize to Your Adult Kids Because It’s Important

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Apologizing is hard.

Apologizing to your adult kids is even more difficult.

As much as I dislike it, as a parent, I have had times when I didn’t handle things well. And as a result, I owed my adult kids an apology.

If you are looking for more posts about adult kids here are some more articles:

It’s Time To Let Go Of Your Grown Kids

The 4 Hidden Reasons Your Mom Is So Controlling

Grandparents Are NOT Free Daycare, Stop Feeling Guilty!

Why Is It So Hard to Apologize To Our Adult Kids?

One of the most difficult things for a parent to do is to apologize to their adult kids. Most parents feel cornered and a bit ashamed when their adult children bring up their less than stellar parenting moments. Like a horror movie of your worst parenting moments, we feel defensive and angry when confronted with our own bad behavior.

Apologizing to your adult children can feel impossible, especially if you have a strained relationship or a history of unresolved conflict. As parents, we feel ashamed and embarrassed when we realize that we made mistakes with our children, or that we were too harsh in the way we disciplined them. Unfortunately, this reluctance to apologize can lead to further resentment between parent and child.

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If You Have Said These Things To Your Adult Kids, You Might Need To Apologize

  • Why would make you say that to me?
  • You need to respect me; I am your mom.
  • I can’t believe you did that; I am so embarrassed.
  • Do you really believe that?
  • How could you let that happen?
  • Is that really the best choice?
  • Why didn’t you ask me before you did that?
  • I have lots of life experience, you should have asked me.

Truth time: no one is prepared to be a parent! There is no test, no book and no internal “awesome mom” switch that flips on when you give birth to your first kid. For most parents, it is a breathtaking roller coaster of victories and despair (and that is only in the first six months!).

Apologizing To Your Adult Daughter Or Grown Son Can Be Challenging

At some point in our parenting journey, our children will accuse us of hurtful behavior. Whether it was a direct insult, or a something more abstract our children have long memories and very strong radar for parenting injustice. When this happens, you need to know how to apologize to your adult kids.

Granted, there are some adult kids that feel compelled to blame all their problems on your parenting. These are the grown children that can’t emotionally move into identifying and owning their own bullshit. For these types of folks, apologizing seems to fuel their sense of victimhood.

The good news is that it’s never too late for parents and their adult kids to mend relationships and make peace. Apologizing can be an important first step in rebuilding trust and understanding between generations. Here are some tips on how to apologize effectively:

Following These Steps Will Help You Apologize To Your Adult Kids

DO:

  • Listen with an intent to understand.
  • Do not defend or justify your behavior
  • Take ownership of the wound you caused
  • Verbally acknowledge that you caused hurt to your adult child
  • Create an apology that owns your mistake, acknowledges that you can’t undo it, and that you were in the wrong.

DO NOT:

  • Defend yourself
  • Try to laugh it off or say that you were “just teasing”
  • Mock your adult child for being hurt by your behavior
  • Remind your adult child that you were treated the same way and you turned out fine
  • Try to grab the moral high ground of being “respected as a parent”

Working as a life coach, I see the results of parents that feel threatened by the idea of apologizing to their adult children. Many adult children have tangible resentment toward their parents’ inability to apologize, creating a cycle of distrust and disrespect.

You Need To Take Ownership Of Your Behavior

When you are not able to recognize your hurtful behavior, you force your adult child to protect themselves from you. Adult children are not required to share bits of their life with you. Don’t forget, it is a privilege to have access to your adult children’s life!

Many parents feel that since they are “the parent” they are not required to own their mistakes. The internal power dynamic that existed in raising their children has not changed despite their fact that they have grown ass kids.

One of the worst mistakes we can make as parents (and people) is to resist change. When we fight against the flexibility required by life, we end up missing out on the useful growth of changing life seasons.

Acknowledge the hurt: Start by recognizing the effect your actions (or lack of action) had on your children. Own the hurt you caused and take responsibility for your actions.

What Will Happen If I Apologize To My Adult Kids?

Accepting that your children have grown into adults is hard. It can take practice to remind yourself that you are no longer the moral compass or the main decision maker for your family. Letting go of these identities can be really challenging, I get it!

Begin to see your adult children as people who have the RIGHT to make their own decisions (bad ones included) and you will feel the emotional energy inside of you shift. Letting go of the parental control feels scary, but it can be so energizing!

Express regret: Show that you are sorry and express genuine remorse.

How To Apologize To Your Adult Kids

Feel The Fear And Apologize Anyway

Some moms experience emotional fear around no longer being needed by their children. At times, we can attempt to use manipulation or control to keep our position as the wise parent. Please don’t do this!

Here is a hard truth: Controlling women end up creating the opposite result of what they want. Most controlling moms find their role in the extended family minimized due to their manipulative behavior.

You Can Learn To Apologize To Your Grown Kids

Please note: all parents can be controlling, not just moms. Adult kids just want to feel accepted and loved by their parents. Truthfully, we all want to feel like we are valued and an important part of a family.

Suggestions That Will Help You Talk Respectfully With Your Adult Kids

For some moms, it helps to practice verbal self-restraint. Try reducing the number of questions you ask your adult child. It can feel controlling to be asked detailed questions! And when we feel controlled, we can feel cornered, which can result in a nasty pointless argument.

Remember, your adult child is entitled to their personal opinions and to their privacy. When you feel a desire to correct or challenge your adult child rising up in you, pause and take a deep breath. It is critical that we all learn to leave space for other people’s beliefs and choices.

Time To Break The Family Rules

Requiring your adult child to fit the family “mold” is certain to bring frustration to your relationship. It is highly likely that your adult child will simply “cut you off” emotionally if you fail to practice conversational restraint.

Adult children are in the position of choosing their relationships. No one on this planet is obligated to be in a relationship with their parents!

You Might Need To Practice Apologizing To Your Adult Kids

Honestly, when it comes to offering a sincere, effective apology, we all need practice. The next time you find yourself judging your adult child, pause and reflect. Before you speak, mentally acknowledge your emotions and the desire to be “right” in the conversation.

Offer a solution: Suggest ways to improve the situation going forward, such as spending more quality time together or having honest conversations about issues they may have with you in the past or present.

Remember, being right is not always being helpful. You can be right and be very hurtful.

Open Hearts Are Good Listeners

Choose to listen to your adult child with an open heart and curious spirit. Refrain from asking too many questions. Make offers of genuine help, if possible. Don’t use your assistance as a method to control them. If you cannot find a positive thing to say about the choice of your adult child, choose to honor them instead.

Honoring your adult child sounds like this:

  • I am proud of you for your individuality.
  • I am impressed with your thought process on this challenging topic.
  • I raised you to think critically, and I am grateful that you are using those skills.
  • If you want to share more later, feel free to call me to chat.

Conclusion

Finally, it helps to have some neutral statements in your back pocket. Be prepared to pull these out when you are feeling the urge to criticize or control the conversation. Avoiding unnecessary arguments is the best way to reduce the need to apologize.

Apologizing does not erase the past, but it can help to heal wounds and open up channels of communication. By taking responsibility for your mistakes and working towards a better relationship with your adult children, you can create an environment where both parties can thrive.

Remember, apologizing may not resolve every issue or guarantee perfect harmony between parents and their adult kids; but it certainly can be a powerful tool for healing wounds and restoring relationships. Take time to reflect on your past interactions with your adult children, and consider how an apology may help you all move forward together.

Don’t Forget This Mom and Dad!

Most importantly, don’t forget that our adult children are mostly the result of our parenting! We are not responsible for their choices and outcomes when they become adults. Genetics, environment, and our influence helped to shape their personalities and choices. We need to recognize that we parented with the best intentions and now we must release our adult kids to fully embrace their uniquely designed lives.

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Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.

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