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How to express love for your grown child(ren) if you find it hard to say

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Do you have difficulty telling your grown children you love them?

If so, you’re not alone.

This could be cultural, generational, or maybe it’s simply not your style.

Whatever the reason, kids need to know they’re loved, regardless of how old they are.

Here are 10 different ways you can express your love to them if you find it hard to say:

1. Ask meaningful questions about their life.

Many interactions between parents and adult children skim the surface instead of delving into important topics.

For example, perhaps you ask how they’re doing and then shift the conversation to Aunt Mabel’s bunions or a recipe you want to try for the next holiday dinner.

Instead, ask them real questions about their life, and listen to what they have to say.

How are their stress levels these days? Is their relationship or marriage going okay? Are they happy and fulfilled in their current job?

When you love someone, you care about their well-being. So by showing that you care about their life, you show that you love them.

2. Pay attention to what’s important to them.

Pay close attention to what lights up your grown child.

For example, if you’re chatting and they get excited talking about a subject, that means it’s important to them.

If they mention they love a particular color, author, scent, or food, note it down.

You then have a list of things you know are important or interesting to them which you can use when a special occasion arises, or just because you want to let them know you’ve thought about them.

Don’t ever underestimate the positive impact it has when you show someone you’ve listened to them, remembered what they’ve said, and taken the time to act on it.

3. Celebrate their birthdays and other milestones.

Stay on top of dates that are important to them, including birthdays, anniversaries, and special events.

For example, if your adult child tells you in passing they’re running a 5k marathon for charity, surprise them at the finish line with a banner and their favorite treat.

And when it comes to birthday gifts, build upon the previous tip and get them something they’ve mentioned in passing.

This will show them that you’re truly listening to what they tell you and that they’re important enough for you to put effort into your gift-giving endeavors.

4. Express admiration when they face challenging times.

If your adult child has been dealing with something intensely challenging, let them know you admire their strength and determination in the face of it.

Not only will this make them feel their efforts are seen, but an encouraging word from you may be exactly what they need to keep on going.

While you’re admiring their resilience, be sure to let them know it’s ok to struggle and that you’re there if they need you.

If they want your help, ask them what you can do. If they want to be alone or sort things out by themselves, respect and honor that, without being passive-aggressive or resentful.

5. Show you accept them for who they are.

You may have been raised in a culture in which your family expected certain things from you. But you can show your children you love and accept them for who they are, without any expectations or demands in return.

If you find it difficult to express this in words, show it in your actions instead.

For example, if the kid you hoped would become a doctor wants to be a musician and they’re playing guitar at open mic night, attend it to encourage them.

If there are aspects of their life you struggle with, show them your love for them transcends any hesitancy or discomfort on your part.

For example, do they have a same-sex partner and you’re struggling with that? Ask what their favorite foods are and invite them both over for dinner.

Or are they struggling with their mental health? Ask how you can support them, without judging them for the difficulties they’re facing or their ability to cope.

6. Support their choices, even if they differ from your own.

You and your adult child may have different life choices and preferences, and that’s okay.

Your kid isn’t going to follow in all your footsteps. Some of their decisions may not just be different from yours—they may be the absolute opposite of what you hoped for.

That’s to be expected. It’s highly unlikely your parents loved all your choices and interests either.

One of the best ways you can show real love is by supporting decisions and choices that you dislike because they’re important to your child.

You can show this by acknowledging and admiring the skills, talents, and qualities they demonstrate in their chosen pursuits.

You may not share their passions, but you can applaud them nonetheless.

7. Spend time together doing things that are important to them.

It’s easy to spend time with loved ones when you’re doing things both of you enjoy.

In contrast, doing things they love, that you really don’t, is a big act of love and devotion.

When you give up your time to do something you’re not keen on, simply because they are, the message of love is loud and clear.

Who knows, you may end up enjoying the experience (at least a little), but more importantly, you’ll show them you care enough not just to tolerate their interests, but to support and encourage them too.

8. Work with their love language.

Discover their preferred ‘love language’ and show love in that way.

For example, if your primary love language is gift giving but theirs is words of affirmation, find a middle ground by writing them a letter telling them everything you admire or appreciate about them.

Alternatively, if they lean towards acts of service and you prefer quality time, compromise by taking charge of arranging a special brunch together, including collecting and dropping them back home.

Finding the sweet spot in your love language Venn diagram ensures that both sides’ needs are being met, without having to speak words that might make one or both of you uncomfortable.

9. Let them know you’re always there to support them.

A lot of young adults feel lost these days, as milestones and expectations of previous generations are being pushed further out of reach.

Although your children are grown-ups, they may be scared about financial struggles ahead of them, and worried about what might happen if they suddenly face a health crisis or job loss.

Take some time to let them know you’re there to support them no matter what happens.

You can reassure them your door is always open if they need a place to live, or that you’re there to help them and their family if someone gets ill or needs money to get by.

That kind of reassurance is worth its weight in gold and is a perfect example of expressing love without actually saying the words.

Note: letting them know you’re there as a safety net doesn’t mean you need to swoop in to rescue them every time they falter. Let them fail sometimes, but always be there when things get too rough for them to handle alone.

10. Always ‘big them up’ rather than putting them down.

Few things can be as devastating to a person as finding out their loved ones speak poorly about them behind their backs.

If you’re supportive of your adult child even though their choices aren’t what you would’ve preferred, make that clear even when they aren’t around.

It’s one thing to tell them to their face that you accept and support them, and another to keep it up when interacting with family or extended social circles.

For example, if a relative makes a scathing comment about your child, stand up for them rather than join in on the criticism.

When it gets back to your child, and it eventually will, they’ll know they are truly loved and supported.

About The Author

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.