Doing Life with Your Adult Children

Show notes & links available here.

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This is an encore presentation of one of my favorite episodes from 2020, my conversation with Jim Burns, President of HomeWord and the Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 30 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books include: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, and Closer. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; two sons-in-law, Steve and Matt; and two grandchildren, James and Charlotte.

The aim of Jim (and Homeword)’s work is to strengthen and equip parents, couples and families. They believe in strong marriages, confident parents, and empowered kids.

Big Ideas

Our kids (no matter their age) need us to be their biggest cheerleaders.

Sometimes our kids need tough love, which is not meanness.

Our adult children really need us to listen.

When our kids become adults we have to make some changes in our parenting role.

Becoming independent can be an awkward, painful process, but we can support our kids through it.

Today’s young adults “meander” towards independence compared to previous generations and that changes parents’ roles, too.

Your role as a parent changes throughout your child’s life.

We need to have healthy boundaries and refrain from coddling our adult children.


Jim Burns: But the truth of the matter is what brings them back is setting a tone of what I call awe, affirmation or affection, warmth and encouragement…I want to be the top cheerleader in their life.

Jim Burns: Even if they’ve not launched or they’re not doing so well or if they violated values, the bottom line is they’re asking this question, do you still love me? And I really believe that our kids need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, Hey, I still love you and we’re going to get through this process together in that. I think that’s the best thing. We as parents can offer our kids at the same time know we do have to set boundaries and hold expectations but in a way very different than when they were children.

Jim Burns: I had to realize that experience is a better teacher than advice.

Jim Burns: Unsolicited advice is taken as criticism.

Audrey: Even if they’re doing things that are crazy or not right, you can still affirm them and be their biggest fan.

Audrey: It is cool at camp that other adults can pour into kids and see that in them.

Audrey: For our kids, if we can just focus on the strengths that we see and help them grow those, it’s remarkable. It will help them throughout childhood and adulthood.

Jim Burns: If we have somebody who believes in us, that is just huge.

Jim Burns: Tough love is not meanness. Tough love is saying they’re going to have to experience some of the consequences for them to learn.

Audrey: I think part of what parents struggle with, and I know that you find this too, is just the fact that when you’re becoming independent, it’s kind of a painful, awkward process. So it’s not this smooth line where you go to college and suddenly you’re mature or you get a job and you’re suddenly mature. It’s painful and there’s two steps back, one step forward. It’s a lot of ups and downs. But what I like about your book is it’s very much what, as a parent, we need to do help the process.

Audrey’s well-read copy of Doing Life with Your Adult Children!

Audrey: The truth is that none of us are ever really ready for something we haven’t done, even adulthood. And we have to remember that when we started doing things, we weren’t ready either.

Jim Burns: So they go away and they are more ready than we are … Not totally ready, because there are some bumps along the way. But you know, I think part of it is a process of us getting ready and us realizing that we have to reinvent the relationship.

Audrey: Be comfortable with a little bit of discomfort or sometimes a lot of discomfort, which is when your child’s going through a difficult time trying to do something on their own. You know, the innate desire as a parent is to jump in and rescue. That’s not what they need.

Audrey: I do want to encourage parents to read your book and I think it’s good to read as early as you can, even during adolescence or sooner to kind of prepare yourself emotionally for the journey so that you’re ready for it. But even if you have already a 30 year old, you could still read it and get some great insights from it.

Jim Burns: You help them launch by sometimes showing empathy, showing care, but not necessarily giving them the answer unless they ask you.

Resources & Links


Doing Life With Your Adult Children: Keep Your Mouth Shut & The Welcome Mat Out

Understanding Your Teen: Shaping Their Character, Facing Their Realities

Confident Parenting

Doing Life With Your Adult Children Online Video Course

One Simple Thing: Post a Quote or Mantra

Each summer at camp, we select ten positive, inspirational quotes and post them on the doors of our bathroom stalls. Campers often offer the quotes, word for word, as something they learned at camp. Why not create some positive messages in your home to help remind your family about the positive practices that will enrich each of your lives? Repetition and reminders in the form of signs, notes, and postings are a great way to reinforce important lessons. If you have a favorite quote or mantra, tell your kids about why you like it and post it in a prominent location. I guarantee your kids will remember it (even if they make fun of you for posting it!).

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.  -Mother Teresa

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. James Keller

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou

We rise by lifting others. Robert Ingersoll

Throw kindness around like confetti.

If you want more kindness in the world, put it there.

A great attitude becomes a great day which becomes a great month which becomes a great year which becomes a great life.

Maybe you’re not meant to fit in. Maybe you’re supposed to stand out.

Please don’t hide your inner awesome. The world needs it.

Be the reason someone smiles today.

If you decide to post a quote or mantra, I’d love for you to share it with me. 

My Favorite

The Dibble Institute: Free Resources

“The Dibble Institute is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that promotes relationship training for youth—especially in the context of dating and romantic connections. Our goal is help to young people build a foundation for healthy romantic relationships now, and for lasting, positive family environments in the future.”

Explore all the great free resources at The Dibble Institute, including their series of Tip Sheets which include:
Guiding Teens & Young Adults in Developing Healthy Romantic Relationships
Tips for Parents: Coping During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Listener Question

This week’s listener question came in via email. If you have a question you’d like me to cover on a future episode of the podcast, email me or record a voice message!


Do you have any suggestions for how to start doing family meetings?

Family meetings are a great way to make sure you have a set time to talk as a family, plan ahead, and communicate about values and other things that are important to you. Most of us didn’t experience family meetings growing up, so it might feel awkward at first calling your family together for a meeting. In our jobs, we know that regular communication, often in the form of weekly or monthly meetings, is vital to keeping people informed and up-t0-date. The same holds true for our families. Even if you start with just one meeting per month, it’s a great way to open up communication about topics that don’t normally come up in day-to-day life. In the resource section of my book, Happy Campers (p.230-231), I offer some suggestions for how to format your family meeting. You can get a A PDF version of the resource by signing up below.