Saying sorry to someone you hurt is a critical step toward making amends and rebuilding your relationship.
But it’s generally not something you look forward to.
Asking for forgiveness from your child puts you in an even more vulnerable position.
But if you find yourself wondering, “Will an apology to my daughter help mend our relationship?” you’re looking at it the wrong way.
Before you can heal the rift, you need to acknowledge it — and how it got there.
How to Apologize to Your Grown Daughter: 11 Essential Steps
If you’re not sure how to apologize to your grown daughter, you’re in the right place. The following steps can help you make the kind of apology your daughter needs from you.
Take the time to read through these and note the points that stand out for you.
1. Understand That You Hurt Her
Make sure you know what you’re apologizing for. Hurting someone you love probably wasn’t your intention, but you’re still responsible for the impact of your words and actions.
Try to imagine how they made her feel. What would she want an apology for? Be specific when reflecting on what you’ve said and done.
If you’re still unsure, spend some time trying to see the situation from your estranged adult daughter’s perspective. Even if you don’t think you’d feel the same way, try to understand why she feels hurt or betrayed.
2. Talk to Her One-on-One
Don’t apologize in front of other people. It puts pressure on your daughter to accept your apology and move on right away. She may not be ready to do this. Make sure she feels safe, respected, and understood.
This means no one — not even someone you both trust — needs to be there to witness it.
One-on-one conversations also provide the privacy needed for a deeper conversation. Make sure she has time to listen to your apology with no distractions. Be specific and give her your full attention.
3. Or Write Her a Letter
Texting doesn’t count — unless it’s the only way to reach her. If you can write an actual letter (on paper) and mail it to her, it tells her that you consider your relationship important enough to spend the time writing the letter and getting it out in the mail.
Yes, email is easier (not to mention texting). But there’s a hidden cost to taking the path of least resistance. And if she already feels undervalued by you, this isn’t the way to go.
Show her she’s worth the extra trouble. And put your heart into it.
4. Don’t Make Excuses
Don’t look for ways to justify your behavior. You might think a credible excuse will make her more likely to forgive you, but the “I’m sorry, but…” apology is more like a “Here’s why I’m right, and you’re overreacting.”
You aren’t there to defend yourself; you’re there to accept responsibility. If there are certain factors you’d like her to know of, present them as just that — factors — not excuses or justifications. Don’t say, “I know I hurt you, but…”
She needs to know you accept full accountability, no strings attached.
5. Stop expecting her to conform to your idea of what’s normal
She’s not you, and you shouldn’t expect her to think the way you do — nor should you assume your way of thinking is automatically superior, thanks to your extra decades of experience. Wisdom doesn’t always come with age.
Be open to the possibility that you’re wrong — or, at least, that there’s more than one valid way to think and perceive. Your idea of normal isn’t universal.
And she’s under no obligation to conform to it.
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6. Say, “I’m Sorry”
It isn’t a genuine apology without those words. Express your remorse. When you get to the actual apology, make it genuine. Don’t draw it out with explanations or descriptions.
Make sure she knows you acknowledge your mistakes and how they’ve hurt her.
Make eye-contact. Avoid making any jokes or side comments to “lighten the mood.” Hold her hand if you’re both comfortable with it. Apologizing is open and vulnerable. This vulnerability makes it scary, but you have to accept both the vulnerability and the discomfort.
Show her you’re willing to put yourself out there.
7. Ask for Forgiveness
Asking for forgiveness makes you vulnerable to rejection. When you ask her to forgive you, make it clear you’re not asking her to forget everything. And don’t expect instant and unconditional forgiveness just because you’re the parent.
Let her know you understand her anger, but you also don’t want her to suffer from it anymore — or from the pain you’ve inflicted. Forgiveness will help her move on, but that doesn’t give you a right to pressure her into making that step.
Don’t push her to let go, but be willing to support her in the way she needs.
8. Start Taking Action to Improve
An apology is meaningless if nothing changes. Don’t say you’re sorry for your behavior if you plan to keep it up. Show her you intend to improve. Before she can accept your apology, she needs to see you putting in the work.
Let her know you’ll do everything possible to avoid hurting her again. Listen to her if she has suggestions on how to change. Don’t get defensive, and never try to justify any behaviors that have hurt her.
Be as open to her feedback as you want her to be to your apology.
9. Give Her Space and Time
Don’t expect an answer immediately, especially if you’re apologizing for something big. She may need time to process and accept your apology. Don’t push her for a response.
Ask her if she needs a moment to process your apology. Offer to leave the room or bring her anything she might need. Remember you’re there to express remorse and give her the apology she deserves, not to fix your relationship immediately.
If you’ve wronged her, she’s allowed to feel cautious for as long as she needs. Rebuilding trust can take a long time. Show that you respect her boundaries and her healing process.
10. Give her Space to Say Anything
When she’s ready to talk, let her say whatever she needs to say — without interrupting her or looking for points to debate with her. This is not the time to display your superior grasp of logic. Just listen to her. Focus your energy on understanding her point of view.
Focus on respecting her enough as a person to care about what she’s feeling and what you’ve done or said that has contributed to that.
Only when you try to see things from her perspective can you begin to really see her.
11. Accept Change
As you move forward, you may have to actively work to change your behavior. In the same way, your relationship with your daughter will likely change. Even after she’s accepted your apology and moved on, your bond will not go back to the way it used to be.
Express a willingness to grow and accept whatever your relationship becomes. Remember to respect your daughter’s boundaries when rebuilding your connection. Don’t overstep or invade her privacy.
Change is natural and healthy. Accept it as it comes.
Now that you know how to apologize to your grown daughter, which of these tips stood out for you? And what will you do this week to help your daughter heal?