by Leah Christopher, Bache & Lynch

Parents’ roles change throughout their child’s life. It makes sense then that as the relationship evolves, so do each person’s wants and needs. During childhood, a parent’s role is to provide hands-on guidance and protect them. A parent’s role is less hands-on in adulthood, like a mentor. But there’s no clear line dividing childhood and adulthood. So, parents inevitably overstep the line.

The need to set healthy boundaries with parents is different for each person. Sometimes, a parent can be emotionally or physically unavailable or overbearing, be insensitive to time constraints or financial limitations or disregard the safe keeping of material things.

Healthy Boundaries With Parents Equates to Well-Being For Everyone

The idea of setting boundaries can initially seem unkind. It may even feel like cutting someone out. The reality, however, is that not setting healthy boundaries is far worse for a parent-child relationship. Without healthy boundaries, feelings of inauthenticity, misery and resentment can develop. These  feelings can fester and cause unexpected blow-ups later. Boundaries create a sense of safety, value and respect. They communicate wants and needs while respecting the other person’s wants and needs.’

How to Recognize the Need for Boundaries

Boundary-crossing parents create an uncomfortable environment and put a strain on relationships. The result is topic avoidance or even parental avoidance. Adult children can establish a clear, healthy boundary and action plan if a parent continues to overstep lines.

How to Set a Healthy Boundary

As in most healthy relationships, success with boundary-crossing parents is all about communication.

  • Think about the needs of both parties, and create a clear boundary.
  • Create a plan of action if the parent crosses theline again.
  • Communicate the boundary and plan of action clearly.
  • Respect the boundary, act when the line is crossed andhold your ground.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

Here’s an example: Amy’s mom calls every night at11:00 p.m. to talk to Amy about her day. The calls interrupt Amy’s sleep and wake up the rest of her household. Amy and her family are sleep-deprived, and her mom doesn’t acknowledge that her phone calls are the cause. To seta healthy boundary, Amy tells her mom how the phone calls affect her (recognizing her own need) and requests that her mom call before 8:00 p.m. (acknowledging her mother’s need to talk and communicating the boundary).She could explain that getting enough rest will improve their phone conversations. Amy tells her mom that she will turn her phone off after 8:00 p.m. if the calls don’t stop (communicating the plan of action). Amy’s mom continues to call after 8:00 p.m., so Amy turns off her phone at 8:00 p.m. (acting when the parent crosses the line) each night (practice, practice, practice.)

When it Works

Setting clear expectations can improve parental relationships. A healthy boundary will create feelings of respect, security and confidence.

But Give ‘Em a Break

People are the sum of their experiences. Parents may be unaware that their actions make their children feel unheard, pressured or defensive. Both parties may need help understanding each other’s situations. It’s normal for adults to disagree with their parents or tell them “no.” Everyone has different needs and wants. It’s OK (and very healthy) to have boundaries