Building Friendships With Adult Children

My friend Janice asked this on a message board I help moderate and I thought it would make a great discussion here as well.

How do YOU remain, or become, “friends” with your adult children? Those who live at home and those who do not. Those who are married? What do you DO to retain a strong friendship. I know we will always be mom and that’s good but what about a *friendship*.

Building friendships with our adult children is a process.

This is a process that begins during the teen years when they still live at home. If we have raised our children to be respectful when they are young, we should be able to develop a relationship with them when they are teenagers that allows for less control and more communication.

Our children belong to God. Building relationships now that will become friendships when our children are adults.

Some of the things I suggest are:

  • pray with them and share your relationship with God together
  • discuss A LOT about all kinds of things
  • listen to their opinions
  • ask them about their thoughts and opinions
  • play with them – especially silly things
  • share in their enjoyments and pleasures, music and movies, etc.
  • build them up in the positive things, particularly their identity in Christ
  • encourage them to know we will be their #1 cheerleader in their marriage and with their spouse

This is what we’ve tried to cultivate with our teens to help our relationship with them transit from one of Chain of Command to Chain of Counsel. I don’t look for friendship in my adult children, per se. But I do look for a free and easy relationship with open and honest communication and love. I don’t expect to be their “buddy” nor get offended if they have intimate friends besides me (I know some mothers who are offended if they are not their daughter’s #1 friend/playmate).

Some things I’ve seen parents do that are destructive:

  • not allow their children to become adults
  • manipulate their children’s life choices (especially using money)
  • control their children in college
  • use guilt as a weapon to stay in control of their children’s lives
  • rescue them from every situation or trouble without being asked
  • micromanaging in general
  • play mind games concerning potential mates of their children

It is so important for us to remember that our children are not ours…they are God’s!

Our job is to raise them up so they can live and work for God’s glory.  We are to keep them close under our wing when they are young so we can protect them. As they grow older, our job changes to help them learn to fly. Eventually, they must leave the nest to soar into the journey God has for them. They will then go on to feather their own nests and raise their own fledglings.

Without that goal in mind, our views become distorted and we forget what this is all about. It is all about God’s glory and raising our children to walk righteously and joyfully with Him. Keeping this perspective won’t make things perfect or keep us from failing, but it will help us from falling into the pitfalls of trying to stay in the center of their lives when we need to always be placing God there.

What practical things have you done, or are you doing, to help build friendships with your adult children?

(image courtesy of Jean-Baptiste Jules Trayer/wikimedia commons)

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  1. Kate, this is what I desire and pray that I would have with my children: a kind of friendship that would last ’til old age :). Even now, it’s what I’m developing with them, esp. with my daughter. We’re very close, and we can talk about anything and yet, her respect to me as her mother is intact.

    A beautiful post.

    • Thanks, Rina! I’m so excited that you, even now, have a close and comfortable relationship with your daughter. What a blessing!!

  2. I am so blessed to have good relationships with my adult children. They know that I am here for them as a sounding board but will let them be who they are supposed to be. 🙂

    • Praise the Lord, Mindy!! It’s always so encouraging to hear when moms and adult children have strong relationships!

  3. Kate, this is beautiful and full of truth. It reminded me of all the things my mother has really done so well and for which, I am ever so grateful!. I grew up with her explaining to me that ultimately I was the Lord’s not hers. She is one of my best friends and I pray I can follow her example with my children. Thank you for sharing this!! 🙂

    • Heather, that is beautiful! One of the hardest things to remember as a mom is that our children DON’T belong to us — we are stewards of them for a time but they belong to God. I’m so excited that your mom instilled this in you and you can pass on the legacy to your own children!

  4. I have one son, and now a beautiful daughter in law. So it’s not been a challenge to be friends with either. As you said Kate, James and I built our relationship all his life, and it has just continued after he moved out. Sometimes I stumble across things he says to his friends on facebook about his dad and me, and it usually brings me to tears. He thinks we’re amazing and will list the reasons why.

    I do have to admit I need to work on one area. I don’t rescue him/them from EVERY situation, but I believe we do it more than we should. I need to let him suffer through a process a little. It’s okay knowing mom and dad are a springboard, and a safety net. But I don’t want him to rely on the safety net. He hasn’t done that yet, but I don’t want to see it happen either.

    • Tina, thanks for sharing this. You are so right, the balance between helping and encouraging co-dependance is really a hard one, I think. It’s also harder for us to WATCH their struggles than it is for us to through struggles ourselves. This is where I have to trust in God’s sovereignty in their lives and leave them in His hands.

  5. I’m the mom of 7 adult children. I find your tips and advice both good and useful. thanks for hosting this linkup?

    • Thanks so much, Sylvia! Nice to get to know you. Will be checking out your blog!

  6. Kate, thank you for this. I’ve done some things right but I see myself doing some of the no-no’s. Then having an adult child with disabilities seems to further muddy the waters. I’m going to think on this list some more. Love you!

    • Terri, I can see that an adult child with disabilities really makes things less black and white and much more complicated. So glad that we can rest in God’s wisdom to navigate these waters, aren’t you??

  7. :0)…PHEW! I am on the right track since I avoid the things in list 2! List 1 however…the struggle! In all honesty, the hubby and I have a great relationship with our kids (14,15,18, and 20). But I think…no, I KNOW…I can be nit-picky and have way high expectations of them. Not in the “big things” like life choices or worldly success. But the day to day things… HOW many times do I need to remind them of__________. Fill in the blank. Clean the rabbits…take out the trash…PLEASE shut the dresser drawers EVERY time! I am working on seeing it before I SAY it…your advise is VERY sound! With my older kids I see the fruit of being open, spending time in discussion, etc. to keep up good communication. Sadly, I also see the flip side…sometimes I see the glassy look in their eyes of complete SHUT down because i crossed the invisible line of mentor to kvetsh! :0)…we are all works in progress! Your sit both challenges and encourages me!

    • It’s always a challenge for us, isn’t it, Donna? When to speak and when to keep silent. Wish I had the perfect balance myself!

  8. One of the verses God used to convict me about encouraging my kids with positive things was Philemon 6 (NASB): “… I pray that the fellowship of your faith *may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you* for Christ’s sake.”

    • Praise the Lord, Laura! May the Lord bless and strengthen you as a mom!

  9. This is a great list! Walking in relationship with older children can be a beautiful and challenging! Recognizing and letting go of control has been my hardest issue…but Ièm getting there!:) Thanks for linking up with WUW.

    • Katharine, I hear ya! We each have our areas where we God pushes us to walk more fully in faith with our children, adult or not.

  10. Both lists are great and although we have pretty good relationships with our adult children, I am certain that we messed up plenty at times and could have done better.

    • I’m so glad to hear when parents have good relationships with their adult children. It is usually a sign of what they did RIGHT! Congrats.

  11. My gift to my adult children is to allow them to be in control of their lives. And really, it’s a win/win situation because I don’t have to worry about making decisions or criticize those they make. Both of my daughters are my friends, yet a mom-friend doesn’t take the place of friends their own age.

    • Wow, Pam, you are so right!

  12. Kate you are so right! I love this post! My goal was to raise adults who viewed the world in which they lived, therefore every decision they made through the lens of God’s Word. I learned to loosen the ‘apron strings’ a little at a time until they were grown…then the apron came off. I love my relationship with my daughter. I am so very proud of she and her husband in the decisions that they make and the life that they are living. They are doing it better than my hubs and I did when we were there age. So thankful that when God is the focus, He redeems even our mistakes as parents.

    • Oh Gay, it blesses me so much to hear about your sweet relationship with your daughter and how you made the transition!! Oh and I know what you mean about how great it is to see our children starting better than WE did at their ages!!! Amen, sis!!!


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