how to give advice to adult children

beentheredonethatmomAugust 8, 2007

Hello All, Just came across the Forum this morning after a frustrating conversation with adult child number three.....our baby at 33.

All our children are in their own nests......have their own babies. Our grandchildren, 7 with 1 due in October, range in ages 10 down to 2. Everyone lives within a 1/2 hour of us and all are in close relationship. This is what I wanted and prayed for......we have been truly blessed!!

My husband and I are so close to them that we pretty much know most of the 'ins and outs' of their daily lives......the good and the bad the ugly, the joys and the sorrows. Again, this is what we wanted, we got it, and feel blessed!

Here's the rub........when they tell me of their woes, just to vent, it often gets to the point that I, being a 'tough love' sort of gal and a problem-solver as best I can, often get into a conflict with them as I try to give them advice. They want to go on and on about their problems and I listen for as long as I can until I really want to help and have to get my two cents in. When they don't want to hear but want to continue to engage me in their sad story, dragging me down with their mood and/or situation........well, let's just say it greatly stresses me out and can turn a lovely day into a not-too-lovely day.

I hope I am doing the right thing by so-willingly making myself available as their sounding-board. I hope I am doing the right thing by trying to offer some advice and/or potential solutions. I hope that when it gets too much and they are too resistent that when I tell them that I can't take it any more and that they should not go on about things, dragging me down with them, that I am doing the right thing. Please note here that when they are in crisis I would not tell them that!

I am an only child and was very close to my mother. I told her just about everything that went on in my life, excluding anything that might really hurt or unglue her. I often dragged her down I am sure......she did the same at times with her issues........but she was my friend, and 'that's what friends are for....right ?! :)

These children of ours are presently ages 36, 34, and 33. Any words of wisdom will be greatly appreciated. Thanks

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Age wise, I could be your daughter. I am 36, married with children. However, I do not have that closeness situation, geographically or emotionally. I talk to my mom, 500 miles away, on the phone 1-2/month. She has never known the ins and outs of my life, I just don't open up like that. But we are loving and friendly and enjoy each other's company. I can only tell you what is helpful to hear from my mother.

So the only thing I want to say is this. I will tell my mom when I'm stressed, tired, etc. She is the kind of person who will tell you to be thankful for your problems. "You have a mountain of dirty dishes? Well, be thankful you had all that food to eat." She just does not listen to whining, she turns it into "look at the bright side." She does not give advice, EVER, not if I were to ask for it. She will ask "What are you options?" or "What are you going to do about it?" I know (because she says this) that she doesn't always like our choices (my brother and me), but we would never know which choices she didn't like. It's true, too, I could only guess.

And that when I do open up to her, I am not looking for my mom to turn my problem around, or fix it for me. Sometimes I just want to hear, from her above anyone else in my life, the words "I understand." And it feels like I could keep saying the same thing over and over with no relief until I hear those words. That's all it takes.

So I would suggest resisting giving advice and instead just saying something understanding and then asking questions about how they will solve the problem. Then you are the sounding board for positive ideas, not just complaints.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 1:31PM
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Tough decision...

About 5-6 years ago my mother told me that she is tired of my unsuccesful stories with men and can't listen anymore or something like that. Frankly I never shared that much, i just made a decision to break up with somebody, I was sad and wanted her support.

Well, after she said that, i never ever shared anything about my personal life beyond just casual information. After that I never shared anything what might be perceived as dragging her down. Not like I was that offended, i just never felt comfortable sharing anymore.

You want to be comfortable telling your grown kids that they drag you down, at the same time you can't listen to depressing stories without offering solutions. It is a tricky one. Try not to let it bring you down, but if you feel like offering solutions ask them first: I think i have an idea how to help the situation, would you be OK if I share it with you? See what they say. Good luck

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 1:34PM
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It sure is a tricky one. I listened to my daughter's tears and held her through a couple of significant panic attacks for several years. When I, as well as several other family members, finally determined she was being emotionally abused by her husband and advised her of such, we were all given the boot. Haven't seen or spoken to my daughter or my grandchildren for two years.

Darned if you do and darned if you don't!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 3:34PM
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Why do people tell us their problems, is it because they want solutions or do they want you to solve the problem ?

I think in most cases, with our children, its because they want someone to listen to them.

I have fallen into the trap of listening to my teen raving on about this and that and then tried to solve, make judegements etc. I have realized over the years that she doesnt want that, she wants SYMPATHY.

If she specifically asks me "what do you think I should do", then I dont make judegements. I work on the "ask her questions about what SHE thinks she should do," and lead her down the road of solving the problem herself.

Do you think you are empowering your children to work out the solutions for themselves ?

I dont think you should be solving their problems.

In fact I think it is rather unfair of them to come to you with their problems,( but can you blame them, they always have,) and then make your day miserable because you will then worry about them.

Give yourself a break and cut those apron strings.

You are blessed in so many ways, its time for them to deal with their own problems.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 6:14PM
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"when they tell me of their woes, just to vent, it often gets to the point that I, being a 'tough love' sort of gal and a problem-solver as best I can, often get into a conflict with them as I try to give them advice."

They want to vent... NOT have you tell them how they should be doing things.

Bottom line - Don't give advice unless they ASK for it!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 7:19PM
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Thank you so much to all of you who answered my post today. So far, I've heard pretty much what I expected to hear.....just listen. let them 'vent', be supportive, only give advice with permission or in response to their request for it.....let them know that 'I understand'. I have been trying to do this and will continue to do so. I appreciate all the advice.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 12:29AM
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Just be the "There, There" parent...a pat and a hug is often all they need. Sometimes I will ask "do you want my advice?' and very very often the answer is "no I just needed to talk"....and that's why you are there.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 12:06PM
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Sounds to me like you are a wonderful mother and you have gotten some good advice here. I am a 54 year old mother of three;38,37,31 and grandmother of three;7,3,and 5 months. I am not close in proximity or otherwise with my mother but always wished that I was. When I do call her I wish that she would just really listen to me and not go on and on about what she did and make it all about her. Sometimes just an ear and an encouraging word is really all that kids need; telling them that you are so proud of them and that you will always keep them in your heart and your prayers. Listen, empathize, encourage and let go. That gives them freedom and yourself as well.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 6:21PM
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When hubby pisses me off or when my daughter is going through something, etc., it's nice that I can call my mom and talk about it with her. Sometimes she shares stories of her own and it makes me feel like she really does understand! I'm not looking for advice, I just need someone to talk to. Sometimes I find my own "answers" while listening to my mom's stories that are similar. So maybe when you want to give advice but fear they will take it the wrong way, etc., tell them a story of your own that has a "moral to the story" effect.

I remember when I was young, a friend of the family lost their adult married daughter to suicide. The daughter had called her mom, crying AGAIN. The mother was fed up with her daughter's life crisis all the time so she told her to deal with her own problems. She had enough! Well, the daughter committed suicide. Turned out that the daughter was having an affair and got pregnant and her husband had a vasectomy, and she didn't know what to do.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 11:31PM
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Come be my mom! Sometimes I ask for her advice and she is so worried she'll get it wrong, even if it's what I need to hear... she won't give it. She's gotten better over the years. I think she also thought she wasn't qualified to give it. I've gotten better tough love from GW than from her on occasion. Bless her little soul. She knows I love her and I know she loves me. :)

So. Here's my suggestion. Ask them before they start or as soon as you realize they're "talking/asking advice", ask them if you're supposed to just hear them or if they want your advice. I learned to preface my conversations with my family members a long time ago and it helped cut down on friction. When I know I just want to be heard, I'll say, "Can I just vent?" or if I want advice I say, "What do you think about this?" and then end it with "It's ok if you don't agree with me. And I may or may not follow it, yours is just one opinion I am getting". It seems to free up the "listener" and help me be less frustrated because I am more certain with where I am going with what I am saying.

Hope this helps you. It's good to be near your family, isn't it?

    Bookmark   December 5, 2008 at 9:38AM
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Wow Rob, that is good advice!!!

I heard from somewhere that women want to talk about it and men want to fix it. I notice that with my DH. I will be venting and he will find a solution. I've had to tell him, I don't need you to fix this, I just need you to listen to me. And it works!!!

Same thing with mothers, I think. We want to fix the problem when sometimes all the child needs is someone to listen to them.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2008 at 2:27PM
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Well, I think usually people just want someone to listen, not problem solve. In fact often it helps to just offer people encouragement in order for them to solve the problem themselves. Such as; "You are smart and insightful and I have the uppermost confidence in your ability to solve this problem. I am sure you will do the right thing, and whatever you decide I'm with you all the way. If you really want to know what their plans are you can add; so what are some of your ideas?" Then listen and encourage. Three-fold: You don't feel responsible to problem solve.
You don't have any accountability for how it works out...and people know you have confidence in them -which leads them to have more confidence in themselves. Just a thought...

    Bookmark   December 5, 2008 at 10:29PM
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I like that, straycat. Silver- my DH has finally internalised that, so now when I'm venting he'll say, "this is one of those "you don't want me to fix it, you just want me to listen" things, isn't it?" :-)

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 10:35AM
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Straycat says, "You are smart and insightful and I have the uppermost confidence in your ability to solve this problem. I am sure you will do the right thing, and whatever you decide I'm with you all the way."

That is almost exactly to the words what my mother has been saying to me since I was about 16. Probably before that, too, I just started retaining specific incidents at about that time. I enjoy being with my mom, visiting, but I don't feel like I need her guidance or problem solving. That is not her role in my life, that is not the role she wants in my life. We always have a lot to talk about, but it's very rarely my problems. Actually, I think her approach has made me see problems as just things to deal with and not obstacles that overwhelm me.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 11:17AM
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Ok so I get it I am not supposed to give advice, but are you all talking about trivial matters, or serious things like home foreclosure, financial meltdown, things that you know can tear a family apart.
A very concerned dad but holding it in, and disappointed that advice has not been asked for.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 6:49AM
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Sorry louis, IMO if advice has not been asked for, it is not wanted, and if you insist on offering it, you will only engender resentment.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 12:09PM
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