Saying “no” just might be one of the toughest things a parent has to say to their children, especially to their adult children. While your kids were growing up and they asked for things like ice cream at dinner time, it maybe wasn’t too difficult to tell them that just wasn’t happening. As they got older, perhaps into their teenage years, saying no likely became more difficult. Now that your children are adults, it can be harder than ever to tell them no. If this struggle sounds familiar to you, know that you are not alone! Read on for some tips about how to tell your adult children no, including a few helpful hints about how to mentally prepare yourself for that conversation.
First of all, you need to understand the fact that telling your loved ones no is sometimes just a necessary part of life. Just like you wouldn’t let your young children eat sweets for dinner all the time because you cared about their health (and their hyper energy levels!), you’ll have to tell your adult children no at some point as well. This may be a significant mindset shift for you if you have felt like you haven’t been able to tell your kids no in the past. Give yourself some grace as you adjust.
This may be a hard truth to swallow, but ultimately your role as a parent is not to make your kids happy. This rings true at any age, from toddler to adult. While you absolutely want your children to be happy, it is not up to you to provide that happiness, according to Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC, and licensed psychotherapist for GoodTherapy. Understanding this concept will help can help alleviate some of the guilt that often goes hand-in-hand with saying no.
Guilt is, unfortunately, a feeling that many parents are all too familiar with. You may find that guilt creeps in when you think about telling your adult children no. This is pretty common, since you’re human and humans naturally make mistakes. We just can’t do everything perfectly or meet every single need our kids have. Remembering this is another step in shifting your mindset to be able to say no to your kids. Don’t give in to any lingering guilt!
Setting boundaries is important for you and your adult children, but that doesn’t mean they will always be happy about it. Once you’ve told your adult child no in response to something they’ve asked of you, you will need to let them express how they feel about your response. Their disappointment is valid, and it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent. It simply means that they are reacting to your answer, which is perfectly natural.
When it comes to the conversation with your adult child, say no as simply as you can. If they ask you to babysit the grandkids for example and you are booked or simply exhausted, it’s perfectly acceptable to say no. But don’t feel that you have to offer an extensive explanation with that no. It’s better to kindly turn down the request with a short and sweet answer instead of a long, winding response. Elaborating could provide an opportunity for your kids to talk you into babysitting, which may end up leading to your feeling resentful later on.
In the example of turning down a babysitting request, you may find it hard to fight that guilt. If you have another commitment or just can’t find the energy to babysit at the end of a long day, go ahead and say no. Then, if it helps and if you won’t regret it later, you could consider offering to take the grandkids out for a fun afternoon over the weekend as a compromise. The key here is to ensure that you’re not doing this out of guilt, but simply because you’d like to spend time with the grandkids on another day when you have the time or energy to devote to them.
Saying no to your adult children isn’t always the easiest thing to accomplish. In the long run, it helps create a healthier relationship with appropriate boundaries. As adults, your children likely understand that no is a necessary response to some requests. After all, they have to turn down requests as adults as well, from work-related asks to personal requests. The bottom line is that you don’t need to worry about saying no to your adult children. Make sure to prepare your mindset before having the conversation with them. Then, keep it simple, let them express their feelings about your answer, and offer alternatives, if you desire.
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