Blog Post

Healthy Boundaries between Adult Children and their Parents

In general, setting healthy boundaries with others can be challenging and emotionally taxing. How many times in your life have you heard your friends or family members advise you to set healthy boundaries? If you’re anything like me, your automatic thought or response may be “What do you mean, am I not doing that already”? It’s difficult to distinguish what setting healthy boundaries really looks like, especially with your parents. We often hear that parents must set boundaries with their growing children, but to think about it the other way around sounds strange.

Setting healthy boundaries with your parents is a process that requires communication, self-awareness, and a deep respect for the relationship you share with your parents. Typically, clients would share that they avoid communicating healthy boundaries with their parents in fear of hurting their feelings. In this blog, we will explore together the why, how, and what setting boundaries with your parents as an adult to help you foster healthier relationships.

The Value of Setting Boundaries

You made it…you are an adult and have freedom to make decisions on your own without being told what to do by your parents. Navigating this transition while maintaining a strong connection with your parents can be tricky. Understanding why setting boundaries with your parents is the first step. Preserving your emotional well-being and focusing on your personal growth and development are a few of the reasons that it is important to set boundaries with your parents.

Open and Honest Communication

Implementing effective boundary setting begins with open and honest communication. Using “I” statements sharing your feelings surrounding a specific situation and ending with a positive request may be helpful. It would sound something like this, “I feel uncomfortable when you come unexpectantly to our home and would greatly appreciate it if you could call ahead to make sure it’s a good time for a visit”. Wait, listen, and be empathetic to your parent’s response. Their visits are most likely coming from a place of love and you want to make sure to let them know that you understand their position. It’s about finding a balance that benefits everyone.

Differentiating between Control or Care?

Most parents want the best for their adult children, however sometimes their intentions can be viewed as controlling. Differentiating between control or care can be confusing. From personal experience, there have been moments when I have thought “Why are my parents always telling me what to do and how to raise my kids. They already had their time raising their own kids, now it’s my turn”. This scenario can be viewed as parents trying to control their adult children, yet on the other hand another perspective can be that they care about their grandchildren’s well-being and are speaking from their own experiences. How do you manage a situation like this? A suggestion would be to thank them for their suggestions and let them know that you appreciate their love and concern.

Managing Challenges and Pushbacks

Your best intentions may be met with resistance and challenges. When this occurs, take a step back and view the situation as if from a helicopter’s view. Reflect on why you are experiencing negative emotions and change your perspective to help you remain calm. It may feel that no matter what you do or how you talk to your parents, the matter of the fact is that they will not respect your boundaries. If this causes you emotional harm and you do not feel safe, it may want to consider creating distance and space. If it’s cultural and you know that they are stuck in their habitual ways, you may need to accept them for who they are and work around it.

Self-Care

The journey of setting healthy boundaries with your parents can be difficult. Therefore, it is important to prioritize your emotional and mental well-being by taking care of you. Provide self-compassion and remind yourself that you are doing your best with the situation. You and your parents are important and loving humans trying to navigate challenging situations.

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