15 Questions To Ask Yourself If Your Relationship With Your Adult Child Feels Strained

15 Questions To Ask Yourself If Your Relationship With Your Adult Child Feels Strained Shutterstock

Do you feel like your relationship with your adult child is strained? It could be something that happened in the past that they’re not able to let go of, or it could be something you did recently that caused a rift between you two. If you’re unsure what the problem could be, then ask yourself the following questions.

1. Have I ever apologized?

Whether you did something recently to upset them or it was something that happened years ago, you should still apologize for it. Not everything can be swept under the rug and forgotten about. If your child is still upset about it, then you need to show them you feel regretful and sorry. This is the only way you can repair your relationship and move forward. And if you’re not sure if you’ve upset them then simply ask, and they’ll probably give it to you straight!

2. Do I accept them?


If your adult child doesn’t feel like you genuinely accept them for who they are, this could cause them to distance themselves or become icy towards you. Simply put your child just wants to feel loved by you. But if you don’t accept their sexuality, interests, or how they identify, then they won’t feel comfortable around you, period.

3. Do I try to control their life?

Even though you probably have their best interests at heart, this could come off as being controlling. For instance, do you do things that you think are helpful but they never asked for? Like organizing their entire house or setting them up on a date? You might think you’re helping, but if they didn’t ask, they probably don’t want your input. Let them live their life!

4. Do I judge their life choices?

mom and dad talking to adult kids

They should be able to live their life the same way you do. Do you always ask your child for permission before you make any life choices? Probably not. Therefore, they shouldn’t feel like they need your blessing. They’re free to make their own choices, and you shouldn’t be judgemental towards them. Unless they are putting themselves in serious harm, then let them do whatever it is they want to do. After all, life is about making mistakes.

5. Do I give them enough space?

Shot of a mature man and his elderly father having coffee and a chat at home

Everyone needs space sometimes, even from the people they love the most. The truth is when you spend too much time with someone, it can become a bit overwhelming and frustrating. They love you, but you have to give them a chance to breathe. So, if it feels like you’re often messaging, calling, and going to see them, maybe hold back a bit. Let them come to you for a change.

6. Do I project my own views onto them?

Projection is something that many parents do, even if they have their child’s best interests at heart. You could even be doing it unintentionally. However, you have to accept that your child won’t always share your views. You can teach them what you know and tell them what you think but don’t expect them to feel exactly the way that you do. They are their own person.

7. Do I criticize their partner?

If you don’t approve of their choice of partner, then you should probably keep it to yourself. The exception to this is if they are clearly being hurt, abused, or manipulated. If you can see that something is wrong, then of course, you should tell them this and offer them support. However, if it’s just a case of you don’t think they’re good enough for your child, then you need to let go of that. If you can see that they’re genuinely happy, this should be enough for you. Try to be happy for them and if things don’t end up working out, be that shoulder to cry on.

8. Am I pushing them to have kids?


Some parents can become quite pushy and demanding when it comes to the topic of grandchildren. If you’re often asking them, “When are you going to have kids?” then you need to re-evaluate. How do you think this makes them feel? It’s not helpful. They might not want any kids, or they might be waiting for the right time or the right person. Whatever the reason, that’s their choice. You can’t speed up the situation and you shouldn’t want to.

9. Do I dismiss their feelings?

When your child is upset about something, do you comfort them about it straight away or do you dismiss it by telling them it’s “no big deal” or “it will be fine”? What they really need from you is a supportive ear. They don’t necessarily need your suggestions or opinions, they just want to know that you’re there for them. It’s really not that hard to just be there.

10. Am I trying to live out my dreams through them?

It’s hard to let go of the dreams you once had and what can often happen is you start to project them onto your child. You start to tell them how they should live their life. You try to influence their career choices and life goals. You think what was once your dream is their dream, but most often, it’s not. You need to let go and let them live the life they want.

11. Do I criticize them?

If you’re often telling your child what they should and shouldn’t be doing, then that would probably explain the strained relationship. Telling them they should be more of something or less of something makes them feel inadequate. They probably don’t want to spend time with someone who sees them as less than perfect. And rightly so! Stop criticizing them and start accepting them, faults and all.

12. Do I respect their opinions?

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Of course, this can cause a rift between two people when they have conflicting opinions about a topic they’re both passionate about. However, you should love your child enough to see past this. Their opinion is theirs. You can’t force them to change their mind and you definitely shouldn’t try to manipulate them into changing it, either. Instead, respect their opinions and respect them as a person. They’ll be grateful to you.

13. Do I really listen to them?

Family sit on couch having dispute, grown up daughter proves her right aggressively argue with elderly mother, 60s mom in despair due to misunderstanding. Generational gap, conflicts at home concept

You might think you listen, but do you really hear them? If you frequently talk over them or stop them while they’re trying to explain something, then there’s your problem right there. They need their parent to listen to what they have to say, comfort them, and be there for them. If you can’t do that, then they won’t want you around.

14. Do I compare them?

If you often compare them to their sibling, a friend, or your friend’s child, then you’re unknowingly destroying your relationship with your child. By comparing them you’re sending the message that they’re either not good enough or that they disappoint you in some way. Either way, this is hurtful and cruel. If you want a good relationship with your child, then you have to start accepting them.

15. Have I mistreated them?

There’s no excuse for mistreating your child, whether it’s in the past or not. It could be an incident that happened years ago. Perhaps you lost your temper with them, called them names, or spanked them when they were young. Even years later, they could resent you for it, so you need to own up to it and apologize. If you are genuinely sorry and they accept it, there’s a chance you can move on from it. If they can’t forgive you, then you have to respect their wishes.

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Coralle is a freelance writer with an interest in relationships, women's health and parenting. In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching new Netflix shows and spending time with family.