People who have a close relationship with their adult children usually demonstrate these 9 key behaviors

Do we really stop parenting once our kids are grown up? I know some parents who think this way and absolutely can’t wait till the kids turn 18 and leave the nest. 

I totally understand that, but here’s the short answer: No, we don’t stop being parents even when the kids are adults. 

The parent-child relationship simply takes on a different dynamic – it feels more like a friendship, where parents evolve from being authority figures to trusted advisors and friends. 

Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys this kind of relationship with their parents. Truth is, some parents find it hard to navigate this new dynamic, and in the process, push their kids away. 

Those who’ve stayed close with their adult children have managed to do so only because they behave in certain positive ways. 

Here are 9 key behaviors you’ll see in people who still have a close relationship with their adult children: 

1) They offer support without intruding

The key to nailing a close relationship with adult children is balance. And this is perhaps where even well-meaning parents tend to err

As parents, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to want to help our kids, right? And it’s common for us to step in and make the road easier for them. 

But when they’re grown up, it’s important to offer just the right amount of support. 

How much is the right amount, though? 

Well, I’d say it is whatever level your adult child is comfortable with. It’s whatever level you’re supportive without becoming overbearing.  

For example, I have a friend who has just been through a divorce. In an attempt to be supportive, her mom would constantly offer unsolicited advice on how to handle the matter, how to co-parent with her ex, what to say to mutual friends, and even when to start dating again.

My friend appreciated that her mom cared so much about her, but…in her own words, “It’s so overwhelming – she’s just too much.” 

And that’s what parents with adult children need to know – how to be there for their kids without being “too much.” 

2) They share wisdom without being critical

In the same way, parents who get along with their adult kids know how to give advice without sounding critical or judgmental. 

And believe me, this is really tricky. Some parents even say, “I told you so” when giving advice, and that’s never helpful. 

I’m fortunate enough that my mom has nailed this balance to a T. I can tell her my problems and not be scared she’ll judge me for my choices in life. 

She’ll share with me the lessons she has learned herself, and it all feels like a warm hug because there’s no judgment involved – only sound, solid advice delivered in a motherly tone. 

3) They set boundaries with their adult children

Setting boundaries will always be a part of good parenting (and healthy living, in general), no matter how old we are. 

Young children need boundaries to feel safe, to learn to set limits for themselves, and to develop self-discipline. 

Guess what? Turns out, adult children need the same thing, too! 

But this time, it’s about “promoting healthy relationships and mutual respect”, according to Psychology Today

For instance, when I had my first baby, I relied on my mom a lot for babysitting help. And she was happy to do it because of course, she loved spending time with her grandson. 

At the same time, she was upfront about saying she won’t always be able to do it because she had a pretty busy life herself. 

This helped me be respectful of her desires and conscious of my limits – she was happy to help but I should never abuse that privilege. 

4) They set dates with their children

My mom is now 75, and we still go out for coffee regularly. Sometimes she looks for workshops we can attend and learn something new together. To date, we’ve tried out pottery, painting, baking, and Ikebana. 

My husband, on the other hand, used to go out on fishing trips with his dad when the latter was still alive. 

It’s all about quality time – still, in my opinion, the most powerful gift we can give each other. Parents who stay close to their adult kids do their best to maintain that strong connection. 

signs your family is far from perfect but theyve always got your back People who have a close relationship with their adult children usually demonstrate these 9 key behaviors

5) They’re flexible with changes

I once had a conversation with a cousin of mine who was lamenting the fact that she couldn’t go on weekend trips with her boyfriend because her mom (my aunt) always insisted on having Sunday lunch together. 

Every. Single. Sunday. Come hell or high water, Sunday lunch must remain untouched. 

This turned out to be counterproductive. Instead of looking forward to their time together, my cousin began dreading it. 

I guess once something becomes a thing you MUST do, as opposed to CAN do, it gets infinitely harder to do it. 

Look, it’s no secret that adulthood is unpredictable. We’ve got a lot on our plate – work, social lives, kids…there’s a lot of moving parts there. 

Parents who stay flexible and know how to go with the flow have a greater chance of staying close with their adult children. 

It takes a lot of pressure off of their adult children when they know that their parents can handle unexpected changes in plans.   

6) They treat their children’s partners like family

This is yet another element that parents of adult children have to navigate successfully if they want to have a healthy, thriving relationship.

Real talk – even when we’re grown up, and even if we don’t want to admit it, we still want our parents’ approval. That’s a natural human desire. 

And this is even more important when it comes to the partners we choose. We want our parents to like them, preferably even love them, as much as we do. 

The parents who can do this – welcome their adult child’s partner into the family warmly – will likely enjoy a close relationship with their child and said partner. 

My own mother-in-law is like this, and it’s a huge part of why she’s one of my favorite people in the world. 

7) They communicate appropriately

There’s nothing quite as entertaining to watch as a family drama, is there? Even when it’s fictional, like in “Arrested Development” or “Succession”, it’s so fascinating. 

The first line of Dostoevsky’s “Anna Karenina” encapsulates family dysfunction in a single sentence: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

And most likely, the dysfunction and unhappiness are due to a lack of appropriate and effective communication

People who enjoy a close relationship with their adult children know how important it is to communicate. This goes beyond merely staying in touch and asking how they’re doing. 

These kinds of parents also know how to address issues respectfully so that their children feel heard and understood. And that also includes this next behavior…

8) They apologize for their mistakes

Let’s face it – many parents still see themselves as the authority, even when their kids are grown up. 

Some would say, “Why should I apologize? I’m the parent here, and I was only trying to help!” (I do know people who’ve had their parents say this to them!)

The thing is, like I mentioned earlier, the dynamic is now different. It’s still a parent-child relationship, but with both parties grown up, there’s now a sharper sense of equality

This is a concept that people who have a close relationship with their adult children understand very well. So if they mess up, they’d apologize just as they would with their peers. 

In fact, I’d venture to say that they were humble enough to apologize for their mistakes even while the kids were young. 

Why is this so important? Because it’s a way of saying, “I see you as your own person, and I value our relationship.”

Believe me, this is so rewarding for an adult child to hear from their parents.

This brings me to my final point… 

9) They accept the changes in roles

Like I discussed earlier, parents who maintain a close relationship with their adult children understand how the dynamics and roles have now changed.

They used to make the decisions, but now they’re merely “consultants”. They used to be the ones in charge, but now they’re in a position where they have to respect the boundaries set by their adult children. 

It can feel diminishing, honestly. Taking a backseat in your child’s life can be painful, even when you know it’s the right thing to do and it’s the natural evolution of life. 

Again, this is where flexibility comes into play. Parents who know how to let go of their previous role find it much easier to adjust to their new role – that of a supportive friend.

But you know what? If they can do this, it likely means that they’ve done the hard work and parented as best as they could when the kids were still young.

After all, that’s the goal, isn’t it – to raise kids who will be their own person someday? 

And that’s an investment that will reward them with a healthy relationship with their child down the road, long after they’ve left the nest. 

Picture of Roselle Umlas

Roselle Umlas

I am a freelance writer with a lifelong interest in helping people become more reflective and self-aware so that they can communicate better and enjoy meaningful relationships.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.