My adult son enjoys drinking and smoking, and my husband and I do not. We don't condemn him for those activities but are concerned that he is damaging his health. Because he knows our feelings about the subject, he doesn't want to spend time with us anymore — and that hurts. Is there anything we can do about it?
Show unconditional love
You love your son unconditionally. But if you haven't done so already, make sure to express it. Let him know that no matter what he does, you are always going to love him.
There is always a reason that someone begins a bad habit — there is a payoff of some sort, even if it's only temporary relief. Could he have a possible health problem that he is trying to cope with or an emotional trauma that he is trying to forget? By asking questions, you can understand him better. He'll appreciate it, and you might be able to help him come up with some solutions.
Plan and invite your son to family activities. Ask him how you can help him feel more comfortable spending time together. Ask for his input on activities, and see if he'll help you plan something. If he's not willing to come or participate, always let him know he is missed.
Never give up, even if he doesn't reciprocate
You will always be his parents, and no one cares more about his welfare and future than you do. Even if your son doesn't agree with you right now, it doesn't mean that his opinion and behavior won't change in the future. Be patient.
It's clear that you have your son's best interests in mind, and I'll bet he knows that, too. It's possible that your son's reticence to spend time with you is not a sign of rejection (which is probably what it feels like) but a sign of respect.
Like any mother and daughter, my mom and I think differently about some things — and I try to avoid certain topics because I don't want her to worry. For example, like many busy moms, I sometimes operate on very little sleep. My mom doesn't approve and tells me repeatedly that my health is going to suffer. Deep down I know she's right, but I have decided that I would rather get things done that I want to do than sleep eight hours. So, I try to avoid talking about my unhealthy sleeping habits (and don't email her when she thinks I should be asleep).
If there's one thing that is universal, it's that children love their parents. So be assured that no matter how disrespectful or disengaged he is, he wants to be connected to you.
By showing unconditional love for your son and reminding yourself that he loves you, too, you have a good chance of slowly but surely reconnecting with him. Best of luck, and let us know how it goes!
A former Miss Utah, Kathy Osmond has spent the past 40 years raising five children and traveling with the Osmonds. Amy Osmond Cook (amyosmondcook.com) teaches at ASU, writes for LA Family Magazine and is raising five children of her own.