How to Apologize to Your Grown Son

How to Apologize to Your Grown Son (5 Tips)

Published On: February 26, 2024

Your relationship with your adult son has likely evolved significantly over the course of their lifetime. When he was a baby, he needed you for absolutely everything, and his need for you seems to have lessened over time. Although this may make parents feel sad or long for feeling needed, parents often agree that it is important for their adult child to have autonomy and independence from them as they enter adulthood. 

As parent-child relationships change, interactions and parental involvement change as well. Your adult child may be instilling new boundaries and building their life outside of your home. It is important that parents adjust to these changes rather than hold onto the past, as adult children tend to pull away if they feel they are being coddled or controlled. 

As much as parents try to maintain a healthy relationship with their adult child, sometimes they fall short. 

Usual Reasons Parents Consider Apologizing

A few common conflicts between parents and their adult children include the following:

  • Disagreement over life choices, such as employment, lifestyles, or living arrangements 
  • Overstepping their adult child’s boundaries or trying to control a situation
  • Challenges or conflicts with adult children’s significant other 
  • Unrealistic expectations being imposed on their children
  • Criticism of adult child’s parenting approaches

After experiencing one of these challenges, a parent may decide an apology is necessary to repair the relationship.

Ineffective Apologies

Even though parents may have good intentions when apologizing, they may create additional challenges if they apologize in a way that is demeaning, belittling, or passive aggressive. This usually leads to ongoing problems, as the adult child will rightfully reject this apology. 

Examples:

  • “Sorry, but I had to do that.”
  • “I’m sorry you think/feel that way.”
  • “Sorry, I didn’t realize you were so sensitive.”

In general, an apology will be ineffective or detrimental if they deflect responsibility, dismiss emotions or feelings, or if they add “but” to the end of the apology. 

How to Structure an Apology to Your Adult Son (with Examples!)

It takes a lot of self-awareness to recognize that an apology is necessary to mend a break in your relationship with your adult-child. I applaud you for making this decision, and believe that the following tips will be helpful as you deliver a genuine apology:

1. Own your Mistake

It it important to authentically own your mistake or take responsibility for how you contributed to this conflict. Even if you feel you are not at fault, it is beneficial to recognize how your actions negatively impacted your adult-child. Parents usually find it helpful to identify their actions prior to having this discussion.

Examples:

  • “I realize I should not have come over unannounced. I should not have imposed on you like that.”
  • “I should have trusted your decision-making. I know you are smart and capable.”
  • “I recognize my message was aggressive. I should have paused before I sent it.”

2. Explore the Conflict in Further Detail

In some situations, it is helpful to explore the conflict in further details to provide additional clarity and understanding. When doing this, I advise you to refrain from becoming defensive or trying to argue your point. It is much more effective to focus on the problem at hand and remind yourself that you and your child are on the same team.

Examples:

  • “What were you feeling when I showed up without asking?”
  • “What did you think about the advice I gave?”
  • “How could I have responded better?”

3. Acknowledge their Feelings

After taking responsibility for your contributions and gaining additional information, it is important to acknowledge how your actions may have effected them emotionally. This is important to do even if you feel that they are overreacting or that you wouldn’t feel the same way. 

Examples:

  • “I understand it feels that I invaded your privacy.”
  • “I can see how you would feel I was being controlling.”
  • “I get why that message made you angry.”

4. Problem Solve How to Address Similar Conflicts in the Future

It is likely that you will run into similar situations in the future. It is wise to have an idea on different ways to approach conflicts in the future to prevent additional harm and to feel prepared. 

Examples:

  • “Next time, I will call you to make sure it is okay that I stop by.”
  • “Whenever you come to me with a problem, I will listen to you rather than give unsolicited advice.”
  • “I will not respond to messages when I am feeling really upset, as I know I cannot communicate effectively.”

5. Reinforce the Importance of the Relationship

As you wind down your apology, it is important to reinstate the importance of your relationship with your adult child. This is reparative for both parties as it deepens your understanding and helps reinforce that you are both on the same team.

Examples:

  • “I love having you as my son.”
  • “You are so important to me.”
  • “I am so glad we’re on the same page. I hate being on bad terms with you. You mean so much to me.”

After the Apology

After you have apologized and reconciled with your adult child, it is important to remember the key takeaways from your apology. You may use the information you gained throughout that discussion to help you address future conflicts. It is crucial that you do not take the same actions as you did before that led to the conflict, as this takes away the creditability or significance of your apology. 

I believe that the best apology is changed behavior, and changing the way that you approach similar situations in the future will suggest that you have learned from the previous conflict and are determined to proceed differently. 

Final Thoughts

It is expected that there will be some growing pains associated with parent-adult child relationships. How parents respond to these growing pains or conflicts significantly impacts the relationship parents have with their adult children. Owning your mistakes as a parent and openly apologizing will help parents rebuild their relationship with their children, whereas refusal to admit mistakes will create further tension. 

When apologizing to adult children, it is important for parents to take responsibility for their actions, validate their child’s feelings, and create a plan to address similar conflicts in the future in a different manner. These discussions are often very restorative and healing for both individuals. To ensure lasting effects of these discussions, it is crucial that the parent avoids making the same mistake again.