empathy for your adult child

The Importance of Understanding and Empathy in Parenting Your Adult Child

January 25, 2024

If your adult child comes to you with trauma or issues from their childhood, it's essential to approach it from a place of understanding and empathy.

Parenting is a challenging journey, filled with moments of joy, happiness, and sometimes hardship. As our children grow and become adults, they carry with them the experiences and lessons they've learned from their childhood. Sometimes, these experiences may be full of joy, but at times, they may carry some trauma or issues that need to be addressed. This is where the role of a parent evolves from not just being a caregiver but into a listener, a guide, and a source of understanding and empathy.

If your adult child comes to you with trauma or issues from their childhood, it's essential to approach it from a place of understanding and empathy. Your adult child is seeking answers, understanding, and, most importantly, recognition of their feelings. They are not trying to blame you or cause you pain; rather, they are looking to heal and build a stronger relationship with you.

"You don’t know how hard it was to put food on the table." "I was just doing my best." "I loved you." "You had a better childhood than most." These are common responses that parents often resort to when faced with their child's distress. But remember, it's not about comparing hardships or justifying actions. It's about acknowledging their feelings and understanding their perspective.

As a parent, you might want your adult child to understand how hard it was for you. Maybe parenting them was very challenging, or perhaps your own childhood was harder. However, remember this crucial point: your child wasn't there for that. Your childhood isn't their measure of what they're "allowed" to be upset about. Their feelings are valid, and they deserve to be heard and understood.

My experience as a therapist has taught me that almost all children want a relationship with their parents, if that is possible. They want an apology. They want change. And most importantly, they want a stronger relationship. These desires are not just wants but needs that contribute significantly to their emotional and mental well-being.

So, how can you navigate this? Show your kids the empathy, understanding, and compassion that you wanted as a child. Ask them questions, seek understanding, be patient, and most importantly, be open to change. You might have been a great parent in many ways, but it's okay to accept that mistakes were made. It doesn't diminish your love or commitment as a parent; instead, it shows your willingness to grow and learn.

Closeness happens when we recognize this truth. Empathy and understanding are two powerful tools that can help repair and strengthen your relationship with your adult child. It's not about looking back with regret but moving forward with love, understanding, and the willingness to make things better.

Improve your relationship with your adult child.

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