Conflict Resolution: Adulting when your loved ones don’t see you as an adult

Guest Author

Dear Conflict Resolution:

Since I came to college, I have been paying for my school, rent, and utilities.  I am an adult and have been taking care of all of my responsibilities, but it feels like my parents don’t understand that.  They treat me like a kid and expect me to take their advice for everything.  I want to have a good relationship with them, but it’s so frustrating.  What can I do to get them to understand that I’m an adult and don’t need their advice for everything?  – Frustrated Man-Child


Adulting… it can be hard when you know you’re an adult, but your loved ones aren’t acting like it.  Here are some tips for how to handle this situation:

  • Think about where your parents are coming from – they literally used to wipe dribble off your face and make sure you ate food every day, and now you’re doing pretty much everything for yourself. That’s a huge change!  They’ve seen you go from a helpless baby to the person you are now, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty recent that you have become a responsible adult.  Change can be hard to accept, especially if your parents are comparing 18 or so years of being dependent on them to a couple of years of being independent.  Cut them some slack and realize that they’re going through their own transition in understanding how you’ve changed.
  • Think about communicating your needs to your parents more directly. It can feel weird to flat out say what you need sometimes, but being direct could help them understand where you’re coming from and see that you’re an adult because you can clearly communicate your concerns and feelings.  If your parent says to you, “I really think you should listen to my advice,” you can both explain your view on the situation and tell them that you appreciate the advice, even if you think you’ll go a different way from what they would do.
  • If you want your parents to see you as an adult, help them out by consciously acting like it when you’re talking to them. Take a step back and look at how you converse with them.  Do you ever revert to the relationship you’re used to with them and throw a mini-temper tantrum or whine about the hardships of college life?  When you talk to them, do talk about your life, but take this newfound sense of adulthood as an opportunity to elevate the conversation.  As young people, we’re often more used to talking about our own experiences than asking them about their lives, and it might be the breath of fresh air your relationship needs if you open things up and surprise them by showing you’re interested in their lives, too.  One of the joys of getting older is transforming your parent-child relationship into a parent-child/friend relationship.  Changing the dynamic of your conversations may help you get to know each other in a whole new way.

Ultimately, you can’t force your parents to think what you want them to think, but you can help them along by showing them what you want them to see.  Taking the time to consider their perspectives, work on your communication together, and show rather than tell them that you’re a responsible adult could go a long way to creating the relationship you want to have with them.  If you want some help getting through to them, visit the Conflict Resolution office.  We can provide one-on-one coaching and help you brainstorm solutions for how to improve your communication with them.  Whatever the conflict, we are here to help!