The belated apology: Is it ever too late to apologize to your grown kids
Apr 16, 2012, 8 a.m.
Every parent knows that raising children is a challenge, and most don't know exactly how challenging it can be until the parenting experience has actually begun. Because of this, parents make mistakes in raising their kids and sometimes some of those mistakes can make life more difficult for their kids, even as they head into adulthood and begin raising their own families. So, is saying sorry to your grown kids appropriate or are late apologies a waste of time and effort?
Opinions on apologizing to your kids vary considerably. Some people don't believe in apologizing to kids while they are still children because they believe it undermines authority. This belief was even more common years ago than it is today, which is why many older adults may find themselves with the urge to apologize. If this is the case, it is rare that a sincere apology will do anything other than heal.
A sincere apology is more than the words "I'm sorry," it expresses remorse, offers retribution, hopes for forgiveness yet expects nothing in return. It's no wonder that apologizing to your kids can be so difficult, and saying sorry to your grown kids is even more challenging.
The more time that occurs between an offense and an apology, the more difficult it will be for an adult child to accept an apology. When late apologies happen some adult children may become suspicious of exactly what the motivation is behind the apology. For example timing a belated apology near the birth of a grandchild may make some estranged adult children suspicious, regardless of how sincere the apology may be.
For example; someone used spanking as a punishment for his daughter when she was a child, but has since read studies and has concluded it was wrong and are sincerely sorry. It is not unusual for grandparents to be to research child rearing recommendations while their children are expecting. However, it is possible for an adult child to interpret an apology as a way for the parent to get closer to a grandchild and may not believe the motivation to apologize is true remorse.
But whether there are grandchildren involved, or just old wounds that may have come from abuse, neglect, or general behavior during a divorce, forgiveness and healing don't come instantly from saying sorry to your grown kids. Chances are the process will take time, but the effort is definitely worth it. The next step that comes after opening your mouth to say "I'm sorry," is opening up your ears to listen to what your adult child has felt over the years. You must be prepared to adjust future behavior whether or not the apology is immediately accepted, because actions are far more important than words. In the end, although time may not heal all wounds, it will heal at least some of them -- lifting at least a portion of your burden and making your adult child feel somewhat better, whether they admit it to you or not.
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