How Do You Best Set Boundaries With Your Adult Children?

As you know, parenting doesn’t automatically stop when your child turns eighteen. It also doesn’t stop when they leave home.

Boundaries can be challenging in any relationship, but setting boundaries with your adult children may feel scary and awkward. As a loving parent, you probably don’t want to come across as insensitive or mean. But, at the same time, you don’t want your children taking advantage of you.

With that in mind, creating and implementing healthy limits can benefit everyone. Let’s get into what you need to know.

How Do You Know if You Need Better Boundaries?

Knowing when or why to set boundaries isn’t always apparent. If you aren’t sure, ask yourself if you struggle with any of these symptoms:

  • feeling agitated or increasingly frustrated with your child.
  • giving money that you don’t have (or don’t really want to give) to your child.
  • feeling continuously disrespected by your child.
  • struggling with other relationships or activities due to the relationship you have with your child.
  • experiencing increased mental health symptoms.
  • feeling perpetually stressed or anxious.
  • being resentful towards yourself for “giving in” too easily.

The presence of any of these symptoms may suggest the need for better boundaries. However, if you struggle with several of these symptoms- and if they’re getting worse as time goes on- it’s time to start considering the changes you need to make.

What Boundaries Do You Need to Set?

Boundaries come in many shapes and sizes, and they are unique to each family system. For instance, the limits you may want to set with your child may differ from how your friend sets limits with their child.

Here are some common boundaries parents may benefit from when considering their relationships with their adult children.

Respectful Communication

Your child should speak to you kindly and respectfully, even during disagreements. If your child becomes defensive, combative, or threatens you, that’s an immediate cause for alarm.

You shouldn’t need to feel unsafe or attacked in your own home. Instead, let your child know that you expect communication to be clear and mature. If they cannot abide by that, you may need to reconsider how you two speak to one another.

Remember that respectful communication is a two-way street. It’s just as crucial that you model compassion, empathy, and curiosity during your interactions.

Spending Time Together

It’s important to consider how you want to spend quality time with your child. Think about having an open conversation where the two of you can discuss what seems most reasonable.

Remember, there isn’t a perfect magic number here- the goal is to find a limit that respects both of your schedules. Also, keep in mind that spending time together isn’t always about physical visits. It may also include time spent texting, talking on the phone, or FaceTiming.

Financial Support

Do you give your adult child money? If so, are you comfortable with the current arrangement, or would you like to make some changes?

Financial boundaries can be challenging, but it’s important that you feel satisfied (and not obligated) when providing monetary support. Obligations can lead to resentment, and if you’re already there, it’s time to reevaluate your situation.

Remember that it’s perfectly okay to give your child money! But you should also consider how it’s helping them and how they’re also contributing towards moving into their own autonomy.

Letting Go of Control

Letting go of control can be one of the most difficult boundaries a parent faces. After all, you spent many years dedicating yourself to helping, supporting, and guiding your child from a helpless state to an independent one.

But even if your child is still your baby, the world now sees them as an adult. This means you must be willing to let them “stumble” a bit as they discover themselves.

You won’t always like their decisions. But if you always interject your opinion (and try to steer your child in a different direction), your decisions will likely result in your child either lying or pushing away from you altogether.

If you constantly swoop in, they don’t learn appropriate consequences for their behavior. Similarly, they don’t learn how to think for themselves critically.

What if You Feel like You Can’t Set Boundaries with Your Adult Child?

Even if you know something needs to change, implementing those changes isn’t always easy. Setting boundaries can be particularly difficult if you have a rocky relationship with your child- or if you’re used to trying to please them at all costs.

Therapy can help you learn how to identify and strengthen boundaries with loved ones. Remember that boundaries protect your integrity- and when done appropriately, they often foster better relationships for everyone.

But if boundaries are a struggle, it may be helpful to reach out for professional support. Together, we can work through your hesitation and fears and develop a reasonable roadmap for setting new limits. Contact me today to get started!

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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