Boundary setting is crucial for any relationship. When people talk about boundaries, they often refer to boundaries in relationships, friendships, or work, and boundaries with family are usually overlooked. When children become adults, new rules and boundaries must be established for the adult-child/parent relationship. Some parents have a difficult time with boundaries when their child becomes an adult. Unintentionally, they might cross boundaries, undermine their adult-child’s autonomy, and cling to familiar childhood dynamics. In addition, many adult-children feel fearful of setting boundaries with their parents, especially if their parents are financially supporting them. When boundaries are not in place, it can lead to resentment and frustration within the relationship. Boundaries promote healthy interactions, improve communication, and create a bond of mutual respect. After reading this article, you will gain insight into effectively setting boundaries with your parent(s) as an adult.
Take time to reflect on your needs and feelings. Think about how you’ve been feeling about your relationship with your parent(s) and explore what you like/dislike. Explore your needs and your ideal relationship with them. What situations make you feel uncomfortable or stressed in this relationship? What situations trigger negative emotions with this person? These questions can help you identify your needs and areas where establishing boundaries may be helpful.
Remember that your needs are equally as important as the needs of others. In some families, children are indirectly taught that their needs aren’t as important as their parents or their feelings don’t matter. This can cause difficulties with boundary setting when becoming an adult. How would you feel if your best friend was in this situation? Would you believe they have a right to set this boundary? Treat yourself with compassion and recognize that you matter. Your needs matter, and you deserve to be respected in relationships, even with your parents.
Be clear and assertive. Be direct and firm when setting boundaries. Think about what you want to say ahead of time, so you can feel more prepared and confident during the conversation. Be respectful of the other person by avoiding putting them down or criticizing them. Some examples of setting boundaries could be: “No”, “I won’t be spoken to like this. I’m going to hang up the phone”, “This is what’s healthy/best for me”, “I don’t want to talk about this topic right now”, “I have a lot on my plate, so I’m not able to add on this extra responsibility right now”
Recognize that you are not responsible for your parents’ reaction. You are allowed to set boundaries and stand up for yourself. It can be difficult for families to adjust to changes in the dynamics, and your parents may have a hard time accepting that you want certain boundaries. It's not uncommon for adult children to feel guilt after implementing boundaries with their parents. If you experience feelings of guilt after setting boundaries, ask yourself “Where is this guilt coming from? Am I doing something wrong?”
Emerging adulthood is an important time in life, and you need to be able to take on your new responsibilities and have the freedom to learn and grow. This is the time to establish yourself as an autonomous, capable, independent adult. Establishing healthy boundaries within the parent and adult-child relationship is an important step toward fostering mutual respect, open communication, and growth. Setting boundaries allows us to respect ourselves and others. By respecting yourself and directly communicating, you're giving the relationship with your parents the chance to flourish in a new light. Remember, you are allowed to set boundaries and your needs matter.
If you have a difficult time setting boundaries, it may be helpful to seek support from a licensed therapist. I provide therapy to self-critical, anxious teens and adults in Gainesville, Florida. Click here to learn more about me! Feel free to fill out my contact form or call/text me at 352-649-3876 to start your journey of healing and growth.
Written by Sasha Larson, LMHC