Do you have a hard time standing up to your parents and saying “no”? Do you feel guilty or anxious when trying to keep your boundaries in check?
Navigating the relationship with one’s parents can be a difficult journey. As we get older, it is crucial to establish boundaries in order to maintain an appropriate level of respect and autonomy in our lives.
However, for some of us, it can be extremely challenging to confront our parents about these matters, but understanding how to set healthy boundaries is essential for any adult seeking a constructive relationship with their family members.
According to experts, here are the best ways to set clear boundaries with your parents without damaging your relationship with them in the process:
Licensed Psychotherapist, Rachel Kaplan Therapy, LLC
It can be incredibly challenging to set boundaries with parents as an adult child, as the relationship dynamics and roles in the family require a lot of adjustment from the way the child-parent dyad operated in the past.
Parents often struggle to see their children as independent adults who have different needs than they did when they were younger and may also be mourning the sense of connectedness and dependence that existed in their earlier relationship.
Understand why it can be hard for parents to have over-involved tendencies
With this in mind, it’s helpful to understand why it can be hard for parents to have insight into their tendencies to be over-involved or opinionated even after their kids launch from their homes and begin to build their own independent lives.
Acknowledging this shift in the dynamic can be really helpful in setting boundaries in an empathic and non-conflictual way that can be received and respected by parents.
Related: How to Deal With Critical Parents in Adulthood
Open communication can give context to why a boundary is being set
Clearly communicating and, sometimes, even reassuring your parents that you respect their guidance and input while also asserting your needs and giving context to why a boundary is being set can make it easier for a parent to understand and accept these changes in the relationship.
An open and honest dialogue about why you are setting a boundary may make it easier for your parents to adapt.
Some parents have limited insight or difficulty taking accountability for their part in the strain that can be experienced as the relationship evolves, and with these types of parents, both internal and external boundaries need to be set.
External boundaries: Be selective in sharing information
It may look like limiting your contact with your parents, being selective about what information you share with them when you don’t want them to be too involved, or explicitly naming your needs.
Internal boundaries: Protect yourself emotionally
They involve protecting yourself emotionally from the distress in the relationship, which is important in families where external boundaries are not as easily respected.
This may mean:
- Learning to accept and tolerate their disappointment.
- Taking an observer stance when you are with your family to notice patterns in your parents’ behavior that may be present in other relationships.
- Practicing self-compassion and empathy as you notice feeling frustrated, hurt, or angry.
Seek for support
Processing all of this with a friend, family member, or therapist can also be incredibly helpful as you navigate these complex relationships and learn how to best support yourself.
Related: How to Build a Personal and Family Support System
Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Clinical Instructor, Mt. Sinai Medical Center
Articulate what you are and aren’t comfortable with in a respectful manner
Boundaries are important in general, as they are the guidelines or rules we make for ourselves as adults. This is also important with parents as we become fellow adults and that we are determining boundaries for ourselves instead of having them imposed upon us as they were when we were children.
There aren’t specific rules here. It’s more about what we are and aren’t comfortable with ourselves. It is important to know where our parents leave off, and we begin and vice versa. Articulating this in a polite and respectful manner is always possible.
Setting boundaries with toxic parents
- Carefully consider what you are comfortable and not comfortable with
“I am comfortable meeting you for lunch.”
“I am not comfortable meeting you for a three-day weekend.”
- Consider your walk-aways
If the parent demands a three-day weekend, calmly respond with, “I am happy to meet you for lunch; please let me know if you would like to schedule that.”
- Don’t be drawn into certain discussions
This include past grievances or disagreements. Focus on the here and now.
Related: How to Let Go of the Past and Move On
- Don’t buy into “owing” your parent
They chose to bring you into this world (or adopt you or however you came to them) which you can certainly acknowledge. However, this does not create a contract where you are in debt to them.
- The parent-child relationship can have many expectations on both sides, which could end up being unmet
There are no guarantees just because you are biologically and/or legally related to someone.
Setting boundaries with parents after marriage
Marriage indicates that you are privileging your new family (i.e., relationship with your spouse) over your family of origin. This is why in cultures and religions around the world, the act of marrying involves declaring your relationship in front of at least one witness (i.e., you are converting a private understanding into a public declaration).
You are no longer considered a child or “junior” but are now someone with a family of their own who is responsible for their own decisions.
Consider and discuss your spouse’s preferences and present a united front to your parents about what you are comfortable doing and what you prefer not to do.
Setting boundaries with parents after having children
Consider how you would like your parents (your child’s grandparents) to be involved in your children’s lives.
Again, consider and discuss your spouse’s preferences and present a united front to your parents about your decisions as parents.
As your child/children grow, the boundaries you have about them with their grandparents may change, so keep the lines of communication open.
Colleen Wenner-Foy, MA. LCMHC-S, LPC, MCAP
Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor | Founder and Clinical Director, New Heights Counseling and Consulting LLC
Setting healthy boundaries with parents is one of the most critical steps to building a solid relationship with them.
As you settle into adulthood, these boundaries keep you from getting angry or resentful toward your parents. Boundaries also allow you to maintain your independence while still being able to relate to your parents.
The following suggestions are ways to set healthy boundaries:
Release yourself from any guilt
Guilt is a powerful emotion. It helps you understand your views on life’s experiences and how you feel about yourself.
However, it doesn’t make sense to hold onto guilt over having boundaries because it puts you through the challenging emotions of feeling guilty about needing or wanting things for yourself.
Holding onto this guilt makes you feel like you’re being selfish, yet it doesn’t mean your needs aren’t valid. You deserve to live your best life, and you deserve to take care of yourself. You can both set boundaries and still respect your parents.
Related: How to Deal with Guilt, According to 11 Experts
Be clear and concise
Before coming to your parents with something you’d like them to change, ask yourself precisely what it is you’re asking for. If you don’t know, you can’t expect them to agree.
It would be best if you were very specific about what you want. Once you’ve identified the problem, conceptualize it; write down what boundary you want to communicate to your parents. You’ll feel better about speaking up when you’ve articulated your thoughts.
Keep the discussion positive
Keeping things positive, lighthearted, and even funny can help you get through the conversation and begin to work toward moving forward with the new set of boundaries.
You don’t want to come across as being too negative or critical because you could end up making a tense situation even more difficult. If you find yourself getting upset or arguing, stop and step back.
Take a deep breath and think about alternative solutions. Try not to let your anger get in the way of finding a solution.
Be open-minded to compromise
Parents are often overprotective and don’t let their children grow up. This creates problems because you are afraid to show disapproval or confront your parents when they do something wrong.
When you have a boundary issue with your parents, try to see if there’s a middle ground where you both win.
Related: How to Be Open Minded (9 Examples)
Remain firm and consistent
Don’t give in to your parents’ demands just because you feel bad about saying no. Your relationship might endure temporary discomfort but ultimately benefit from setting boundaries.
If you cave into breaking pre-determined boundaries, your parents will continue to push you until you break down and give in. There’s no need to argue as long as you remain firm and consistent.
Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS, MSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Board Approved Clinical Supervisor, Choosing Therapy
Identify what your boundaries are
Many people struggle to identify their boundaries, especially those from enmeshed families or families with poor boundaries.
Start with thinking about what things make you uncomfortable or annoyed. For some, maybe it is not discussing certain topics such as politics or their love lives. For others, the boundaries might be around time spent together or activities that were done together.
Set the boundaries firmly but gently
Start by informing your parents of what you will and will not be doing. Remember that boundaries are about you and what you will not tolerate, but you can not change other people.
Short answer, do not get into the back and forth of why, when, and how:
- “No, dad, we’re going to be unable to make it to the afterparty because we have another commitment at that time, but thank you for the invitation. Enjoy!”
- “Yes, dad, that sounds fun. Unfortunately, I’ll have to sit this one out, but you have fun!”
Related: How to Politely Decline an Invitation to Hang Out (With Examples)
You can only control your own behavior
Instead of, “Mom, you have to end Sunday dinner by five, so I can get home and get the kids to bed,“ you can say, “Mom, we will be leaving at five, so we can get home to get the kids to bed.”
Don’t get into a conversation where you have to explain yourself, your actions, and the reasons behind them. It will be difficult at first, but with time, it will get easier for you and them.
Be prepared for some discomfort
If your family refuses to respect your boundaries, use what I call “N.E.B. communication: Necessary, Emotionless (when able and appropriate), and Brief.” This will help decrease the chances of getting sucked into a difficult conversation where your boundaries are pushed or even disrespected:
- “Yes, we have to leave by 5.”
- “We are unable to come on that date, but thank you!”
Always keep improving and growing
Boundaries are something that is never too late to learn: You can start anytime! Or you can decide you want to change your mind and have different boundaries when for years, you had always let this particular one slide — this is all okay.
As long as you are gentle and assertive, it will start to get easier for you all.
Niki J. Yarnot, MSW, LSW
Life and Career Coach, Forest for the Trees Coaching
One of the most significant shifts in perspective as an adult comes from realizing that your parents are people too. They are fallible. They make mistakes, may or may not have the capacity to change, have insecurities and faults, and are complicated people.
So now that you recognize your parent as a fellow human, how do you reframe your relationship in a healthy way?
Perhaps you are among the lucky few whose parents truly are wonderful, flawless humans:
- Who never overreach
- Never test boundaries
- Never cause harm — even unintentionally
If, however, you reside on earth with the rest of us imperfect humans, read on.
Consider the reasons why you must set boundaries
Throughout your childhood, your parents taught you lessons in everything from reading and writing to personal safety, respect, and more. They have been thrilled to see you put those lessons into action, succeed as a result of their care and efforts, and become an adult.
They may not be as thrilled when you use those lessons to put boundaries in place with them. Like many things in life, though, just because something is hard to do doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.
First, let’s return to your parents’ humanity. Now that you recognize mistakes may have been made and may continue to be made, you need to decide what you want to do about it.
If you are struggling with whether or not to draw a boundary, consider the following:
- Would you allow a friend or colleague to continue treating you in the way in which your parents are? Would you allow them to overstep or overreach in the same way?
- What problems are being caused by the behavior towards you? Is it causing you pain? Is it causing strife in your marriage?
- What do you hope to gain from setting the boundary? What outcome are you seeking?
Go for direct communication and honesty
Now it’s time to have the conversation. Honesty is the best policy, as is direct communication.
Don’t beat around the bush or use euphemisms — get to the point and be clear:
“Mom/Dad, I need to talk to you about X’s behavior or event. Here is what I saw happen, and here is what I experienced as a result. Moving forward, here is what I need.”
Then set your boundary, be clear about it, and move forward.
Is this going to feel uncomfortable? It might, and that is okay! Just because you are uncomfortable does not mean you are wrong. Take a breath, assure your parents you love them, and then remember that you are setting this boundary in order to keep the relationship healthy.
If you don’t set appropriate boundaries, the talk you will be having will be far more uncomfortable.
Ellie Borden, BA, RP, PCC
Registered Psychotherapist | Certified Life Coach | Clinical Director, Mind By Design
Have the courage to voice your needs
The first way to get to a proper resolution to most problems is usually to just talk about it.
Your parents may not realize that you need clearer boundaries with them. They may even agree that the boundaries between you and them should be clearer, but because you have not said anything, they may assume that you are fine with how things are. So, be sure to speak up!
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say!
You may find that a surprising number of your problems can be ameliorated by simply having the courage to voice your needs. If requesting some more space between you and your parents fails, you may wish to attempt something more proactive.
Do as much housework as possible
Sometimes, a lack of good boundaries can be caused by overindulgent parents. They may cook and clean for you and pay your bills. While this is perfectly fine for children, if you are at the age where you should be living away from home, you may wish to adopt more responsibility around the house.
Related: Signs of Over-Indulgent Parents: Consequences and Dangers to the Growing Child
The longer you stay home, the unhealthier it can become, but staying home and allowing your parents to do everything for you can worsen things.
A good way to set some decent boundaries with your parents is to do as much housework as possible.
Get your own place
Try taking care of your parents instead of allowing them to always take care of you. Also, if you are unemployed, getting a job and helping out with the bills can help you assert your independence and may help you search for your own place.
Getting your own place may be the most appropriate thing to do if all else fails.
Nowadays, more people than ever are delaying moving out of their parent’s house for various reasons, such as economic concerns. But if you are able to, getting your own place may be the most effective thing you can do to set up appropriate boundaries with your parents.
Living on your own, paying your bills yourself, and attending to the housework personally are necessary steps to achieving your independence. Doing so can make it quite difficult to have inadequate boundaries with your parents.
Your next chapter in life as a true adult — one who is self-sufficient and has healthy boundaries with their parents — is out there waiting for you!
Melissa Zawisza, LCSW-S
Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Reilly Counseling, PLLC
Learn about healthy boundaries
Understanding boundaries is recognizing the different types and the necessity of boundaries. Learn from others in your life and see what fits you.
Identify what your boundaries are
Reflect on what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable to you. Consider different areas of your life, including home, family, friends, work, or school.
Draw circles: Each circle and name you write inside it represent something
Draw a small circle and write your name in it. Draw a slightly larger circle
around the first one.
Write people who are closest to you. These individuals may know what has happened in your past to you and vice versa. They have seen you at your best, at your worst, and everywhere in between. This circle may include your partner, close friends, or family members.
Draw another larger circle. Write the names of those individuals you know and may interact with on a regular basis. Possibilities may include family, friends, coworkers, teachers, or church members.
Another circle may include people you recognize and know little about them. This can be a wide range of people: Teachers, a coworker, or your mail person.
It may be helpful to include individuals who are outside of the circles. For whatever reason, these individuals are not in your life by choice.
Keep in mind people can move in and out of these circle. Your circle may
change based on the stage of life you are in.
Practice: Be consistent with your boundaries
Setting boundaries can be difficult and rewarding. Be consistent with your boundaries, be kind to yourself, and be aware of other people’s boundaries.
Keep at it. It may be an adjustment to others in your life. Be aware of how
others react to your new boundaries. The topic of boundaries comes up a lot around the holidays. We need them year-round. It ultimately helps you. Keep that in front of your mind.
Practice, review periodically, and make adjustments. Practice again. Being
comfortable with boundaries is a lifelong journey.
Colette Lopane-Capella, M.A., LMHC, LPC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Founder and Director, New Day Vitality Mental Health Counseling PLLC
Parents — we love them, we adore them. We want them to be part of our life, for the most part. But boundaries are essential. They can be challenging to implement, and many times they are met with pushback from our parents.
Here are some tips on how to set boundaries with parents:
Express your needs and wants, especially space
Express your needs and wants, particularly when you need space, share it, and explore it.
It’s perfectly fine to say to a parent, “Today, I don’t want you to come over. I need to rest, have plans, etc.”
Be aware of time limits
Is there a limit of time you can spend giving to parents? Check in with yourself frequently on what that may be for you.
Sometimes too much time is what causes discomfort. Try to establish a time limit: Is it an hour or a week? Only you have the answer to what feels the most comfortable and regulating.
Be clear with your expectations and connections with parents
Use your voice, and don’t be afraid to set clear precise expectations.
For instance, you may say, “Calling me frequently throughout the day causes me stress. I’ll call you when I have the time at the end of the week or evening.”
Speak your truth
Be assertive with your feelings, wants, and needs.
Speak your truth. Stay true, stay authentic to your emotions, tune in and use your voice to vocalize your truth.
Show yourself love and compassion
Show yourself compassion and love; boundaries aren’t always easy, but they are essential.
It’s ok to feel guilty when initially setting boundaries. In fact, I would even tune into that feeling and work to discover the depth behind it. Show yourself love and compassion; this can definitely be difficult.
Related: How to Love Yourself When You Don’t Know How, According to 13 Experts
Reach out to a psychotherapist
If you’re still struggling, I encourage you to reach out to a psychotherapist who can help you set clear, firm boundaries with your parents.
Katie Egge, LMFT, RYT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Owner, Connect Therapy MN
Remember: Boundaries communicate what you will do — you’re not asking or making a request
There are three factors to help simplify boundary setting with parents:
- Frequency. How often do you want to interact with your parent/s? Is seeing them once a month sufficient for you? Texting with them a couple of times/week?
- Duration. For how long do you want to interact? A few hours? 30 minutes?
- Context. This includes a type of interaction (i.e., texting, email, in person, etc.), location (i.e., meet at your place or theirs, virtual, etc.), and content (i.e. which subjects are ok/not ok to discuss)
For example, you may want to only participate in Sunday dinners at your parents’ place once a month for 2 hours. When setting boundaries, remember that boundaries communicate what you will do. Therefore, it is not an ask or request of the other person.
For example, telling your parent that you’re not open to discussing politics with them is a boundary. Asking your parent not to bring up the topic of politics is a request.
However, you can pair a request with a boundary. Using the example above, this could sound like this:
- Request –“Dad, would you be willing to stop bringing it up in our conversations?”
- Boundary – “I’m not comfortable talking about politics with you anymore. I am open to talking about other things except this. If it comes up in our conversation, I will either change the topic or end the conversation.”
Coach Trainer | Director of Curriculum and Content, Coach Training EDU
Everyone knows that boundaries are an incredibly important part of life, especially regarding intimate relationships and our careers.
However, many people hesitate to set boundaries with their parents, especially if they were raised to always respect and obey everything their parents say.
This can present some unfortunate outcomes, as many people fall into one of two categories without boundaries: They pull away or ruin their mental health attempting to tolerate the issues.
Self-awareness: Reflect on the reasons behind the need for boundaries
Before setting boundaries with anyone in your life, it’s important to reflect on the reasons behind the boundaries. We often know that we feel uncomfortable with something, but we don’t really understand where that discomfort comes from.
Doing a little self-exploration can help you determine where the discomfort comes from and allow you to develop a more clearly defined boundary around that discomfort.
Understanding why a boundary is important to you will help you anchor yourself in your decision to set the boundary. Should your parents ever challenge that boundary, you’ll be able to plant your feet firmly in your decision.
Invite your parents to the conversation when appropriate
If your parents are behaving inappropriately, then this tip may not be appropriate for your situation. However, there are times when our parents’ uncomfortable behavior has its meaning as well.
For example, if your parents tend to overbuy presents for your children, you might consider asking them why it’s crucial for them to do that. What do they get out of the behavior that makes you uncomfortable?
Understanding their side of things can help you set boundaries that might work for both sides.
Get specific and define the boundaries you’d like to set
The next step in setting boundaries with your parents is to clearly define the boundaries you’d like to set and why they are important to you. It’s easy for boundaries to feel restrictive, especially when giving them to folks who may not be used to them or expecting them.
While you shouldn’t have to explain yourself all the time, having a very clear boundary with a very clear reason for the boundary to exist can help your parents understand where you’re coming from.
For example, if your parents tend to overbuy gifts for your children, give them a spending limit or a limit to the number of gifts (or both). Then, tell them why you’re setting this boundary.
Whether you have little room for the items in your home or you’re trying to teach your children lessons about gifts, the reason should be clear and understandable.
Set consequences with the boundaries
This one can be tricky, but if your parents are not willing to listen or honor your boundaries, you may need to set boundaries that include a set of consequences.
For example, you might let your parents know that any presents purchased beyond the set limit (spending limit or gift limit) will be donated to a local charity.
While this may sound harsh, it lets your parents know you are serious about the boundary you’ve set and informs them what will happen if the boundary is crossed. This works well in other scenarios, as well.
For example, you might inform your parents that if they bring up politics at dinner, you will be excusing yourself from the occasion.
Don’t overwhelm them all at once — start with one or two boundaries
The key to setting boundaries with parents is to not overwhelm them all at once.
Start with one or two boundaries, see how they respond and what tweaks you may need to make to your approach. Once you’ve set a few boundaries that work, you can look to set more in a way that respects the nature of your relationship with your parents.
At the end of the day, our parents are some of the most challenging people to set boundaries with. However, to honor your parent-child relationship, it’s important to set healthy boundaries that respect your needs and desires as an individual.
Mental Health Specialist, Healthy Minded | Professional Psychology Writer | Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist Trainee
Approach the situation with empathy
Although it can feel uncomfortable and irritating when your parents continually push against your boundaries, it’s crucial to approach boundary-setting with empathy.
Parents who don’t understand boundaries were generally never taught healthy boundary setting by their parents — this means their boundaries were likely encroached on from an early age.
While it isn’t your responsibility to teach your parents about boundaries, approaching boundary setting with empathy by reminding yourself they aren’t intentionally crossing your boundaries can help avoid conflict.
Related: How to Deal With Someone Who Doesn’t Respect Boundaries
Consistency is key
When it comes to boundary setting, consistency is key. If you assert your boundary one day but give in to your parents’ pressure the next, you send mixed messages, and they’ll continue to push the limits.
Once you set a boundary, stick to it, regardless of what your parents throw at you.
They may respond by guilt-tripping, being unkind, or even getting angry, but they will likely calm down as they begin to understand that you aren’t going to change your mind because there’s safety in consistency — it’s predictable.
Say “Thank you,” not “I’m sorry”
When you start setting boundaries with your parents, it’s only natural to feel a little guilty. You may worry you’re disappointing or upsetting them or that they won’t forgive you — this is entirely normal.
Instead of phrasing your boundaries from a place of guilt, state them from a place of gratitude. For example, turn “I’m sorry I took so long to reply” to “Thank you for patiently waiting for me to reply.”
Founder and CEO, MEvolution
Boundaries are an incredibly powerful tool in living a productive, happy, and fulfilling life, as well as cultivating strong and healthy relationships. Yet, many find it challenging to set them, especially with their loved ones and even more so with their parents.
Why are boundaries important?
Boundaries are guidelines that enable people to be happy and healthy and live authentically. While you may be willing to have more flexibility with your parents, boundaries are still critical.
When you set healthy boundaries with your parents, not only will you protect your time and energy, but you will also strengthen your relationship.
Boundaries will challenge you to communicate more directly, and, in turn, this helps to prevent miscommunications and misunderstandings, which can otherwise build up into feelings of resentment.
You may feel angry with them, upset, or frustrated, which can all lead to negative behaviors, such as being snappy or passive-aggressive, that work against a healthy, happy relationship.
Without guidelines, it simply leaves space for your parents to easily get offended or overstep without even meaning to.
Setting boundaries comes down to a combination of your beliefs around them as well as the language you use. If you struggle to set those all-important safeguards with your parents, don’t worry.
Here is a step-by-step process to help you relinquish the fears and set you up for a successful conversation:
Clarify what you need; explore your limits
The first step is to understand what your needs are in the situation and why they are important. This requires an exploration of your limits.
For example, perhaps you would like your parents to call before coming over instead of dropping in without warning. Or, you would like for them to stay with you for only a week, rather than the two they want to, to support the needs of your own family life.
It can be a struggle for your parents to see you as an adult:
- In need of your own space.
- With the capabilities to make your own choices.
- Who needs to set your own limits.
They may also hold different expectations of a parent-child relationship based on how they grew up. Being clear on your needs will help you communicate more effectively.
Related: Effective Communication: How to Improve Your Communication Skills
Being clear on ‘why’ the need is important to you can help quell confusion and assumptions that may lead to unnecessary hurt. They can become aware that it is personal to you, not personally against them.
For example, if you just tell your parents, “Call me before you come,” when this is not their current norm, you leave the ‘why’ open to interpretation. Your parents may be left wondering if they have done something wrong or even if you are in some kind of situation that you do not want them privy to!
Understand what is hindering you from setting the boundary
The next step is to understand what is hindering you from setting the boundary, as there can be many negative emotions and fears associated with communicating and setting these guardrails.
A common emotion is a guilt. You may feel guilty because they are your parents and therefore have the expectation that you should tend to their requests and demands.
You may fear their reaction and upsetting them. You may worry about what they will think of you, perhaps even that they will think you are not a good child. When these fears run amok, it creates a perceived threat to having the conversation.
In protection mode, your mind will try to steer clear of it, which can lead you to avoid having these all-important conversations.
Alleviate your blockers by retraining your mind to value boundaries
These boundary blockers can be alleviated by identifying them, challenging your assumptions and automatic thoughts, and then retraining your mind to value boundaries.
For example, if you think boundaries are selfish, then remind yourself that you have a finite amount of time and energy, so you have the right to protect it. Or if you assume they will negatively impact your relationship, then reframe it with how they may positively impact your relationship.
For example, your parents may no longer be blissfully unaware that their comments about how you live your life or look are offending you. By challenging the thoughts that block you, you can rewrite the false narratives and misconceptions that you have about boundaries.
It is also wise to consider what you will do if they continue with the behaviors.
This can include looking at how you can shift your behaviors to uphold your boundaries as you control your responses and actions. Perhaps you will have something scheduled around their visit so that there are bookends on time spent.
Find the right language on how to best communicate your boundaries
Boundaries can be seen as assertions instead of simply a healthy way of communicating. You, or your parents, may react to the word “boundary.” It can evoke feelings of limits, aggression, or setting rules.
Finding the right language can help open the mind to boundaries being seen as guidelines and protection.
To best communicate your boundary, you need to find language that is comfortable for you, that is true to your intent, and also has the best chance of resonating with your parents.
You can think about what you know about yourself and them:
- What are your communication styles?
- How do they best consume information?
- Are there any potential words that may trigger them?
- What do they need to hear from you?
- When is the best time to communicate so that both parties can be present in the conversation?
Armed with this information, you can determine the language that will give you the best chance of having a productive and positive conversation. You may even want to say it aloud and see how it feels.
Remember: While you have the responsibility to deliver your message kindly, respectfully, true to your values, and in the way you think they can best receive it, you cannot control their response.
It can take some practice to learn the best way to communicate your boundaries and become more comfortable with doing so.
Once you communicate them to your parents, reflect on the moment:
- How did they respond?
- What language worked and what didn’t work?
- What can you try next time?
Doing this can transform tough moments into healthy, productive conversations in the future.
Give yourself permission to set boundaries; keep learning and improving on setting them
Setting and maintaining boundaries is an ongoing journey, so it is important to keep learning and improving. It all starts with giving yourself permission to set them as they are a powerful tool that requires you to take total self-responsibility.
By communicating your needs, expectations, and boundaries consistently to your parents and being open to hearing their thoughts and beliefs, you can enter into a healthy conversation where the result is a mutual understanding from which all parties feel valued and respected.
After all, boundaries create healthier relationships and a more positive and productive you!
Relationship Expert, Sameera Sullivan Matchmakers
As children become adults, they realize the need to set boundaries with their parents to provide themselves with the space for growth and experience new things.
Healthy boundaries with parents make the adults feel independent and individualized and promote healthy future relationships. Here’s how to set boundaries with your parents.
Determine your needs and take note of unhealthy boundaries
Take some time to reflect on the aspects of your relationship that require improvement. Pay close attention to continuing interactions and conversations with your parents where invasiveness, disrespect, abuse, or guilt-tripping occur.
Related: 30+ Signs of Emotionally Abusive Parents (According to 10 Experts)
Without passing judgment, be quite clear about how each interaction that pushes boundaries makes you feel. This step increases self-awareness and reduces reaction so you can concentrate more clearly on how you’ll adjust your route.
Establish one healthy limit at a time
Focus on changing one boundary issue at a time to prevent overwhelming yourself or your parent.
Start with simpler boundary violation issues, such as guilt-tripping you when you need to reschedule your dinner date if creating boundaries feels difficult or anxiety-inducing. You’ll feel more capable of addressing more challenging boundary issues with your parents as your capacity to set boundaries grows.
Be patient with them; focus on doing things you can control
Depending on your parent and the limit you’re creating, you might not see changes in their conduct for several months.
Recognize that getting your parents to accept or support your boundary isn’t necessarily your goal because you have no control over their reaction.
Speaking up for your requirements and carrying them out if your parents don’t respect them are things you can control. Everything else is up to them.
Dr. Ketan Parmar
Psychiatrist and Mental Health Expert, ClinicSpots
Setting boundaries with parents can be tricky. But it’s important to set them up if you want a healthy relationship with your family.
Here are some tips on how to set boundaries with parents:
Acknowledge your feelings
Before you try to communicate your needs and wants with your parents, take the time to identify and acknowledge how you feel about certain situations or decisions they make that may impact you negatively.
This will help you explain why something isn’t working for you in a respectful manner instead of simply demanding a change.
Respect “their” boundaries
Remember that while it is good to establish boundaries with your parents, respecting their own is equally important. Respect their need for space and privacy, as well as their decisions that don’t involve you directly.
Communicate openly and honestly
Once both parties have identified what kind of boundaries they need and can respect, take the time to communicate openly with your parents about your needs.
Be honest about how certain situations make you feel, and explain why it might be difficult for you to agree with them on certain matters.
Find common ground
Negotiate with your parents instead of presenting an ultimatum.
Try to find a solution that works best for both parties. Make sure to listen to their side carefully before coming up with a compromise that is beneficial for everyone involved in the conversation.
Keep your cool
Setting boundaries can be a difficult and emotional process, but it’s important to stay calm during the conversation and avoid getting into arguments with your parents. Try to listen to what they say without letting emotions take over.
Related: 9 Ways to Relax and Calm Your Mind
Don’t take things personally
It can be difficult not to take things personally regarding conversations with your parents, but you must try not to let their words or actions affect you emotionally.
Try your best to maintain a level head and practice empathy. Understand that they are trying their best — just like you are — and remain open-minded about the situation.
Take time for yourself
It’s also important to take time for yourself every now and then, away from family obligations or expectations.
Take a break from technology or other distractions and spend some quality “me time” doing something peaceful or creative. This will help you recharge mentally and emotionally, which can be beneficial in any relationship.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to set healthy boundaries with your parents and foster a stronger relationship with them in the long run.
Remember that communication is key. Be honest about how certain decisions impact you without attacking anyone directly, and always keep an open mind when it comes to finding solutions that work best for everyone involved. Good luck!
Family Dynamics Expert | Therapeutic Coach | Existential Therapist
Do your “inner-child work” before setting boundaries with them
I work with clients to help them heal from complex childhood trauma. I see time and again how, as humans, we get comfortable with ways of being that sometimes do not serve us.
However, because we are so used to them, having lived that way since we were children, we hold onto them.
For example, when we are praised as children for doing everything and being ‘Mommy’s little helper,’ we can continue to believe that we are loved because we do everything for our parents.
I invite clients to confront these truths about themselves, so they can find new ways of being.
One way to do this is to think about the inner child you carry with you everywhere:
- That childlike part of yourself that needs your parents’ love and got it only under condition.
- Talk to them.
- Be curious about those conditions.
Choose to release your inner child of those conditions by becoming the unconditionally loving parent they always longed for.
In the example above, you might remind your inner child that:
- “They are enough.”
- “They don’t need to give to be loved.”
- “I am here to look after you.”
Once you’ve done this inner-child work, your self-awareness will guide you towards getting clear on what boundaries you need to set now as an adult.
For example, telling Mom that you can’t drop what you’re doing to help her right now. Then, with a more robust and core belief in yourself, you will also be better able to keep those boundaries firm.
Dr. David Seitz
Medical Director, Ascendant Detox
Setting boundaries with parents can be difficult, especially when it comes to important and personal topics. However, establishing healthy boundaries is essential for self-care and good personal growth.
Here are a few tips for setting boundaries that will help you communicate your needs effectively to your parents:
Communicate your needs clearly and honestly
Make sure that you express your needs and feelings in a clear and honest way. Explain to them why you must set boundaries and make sure they understand exactly what those boundaries are.
Respect their perspective
Listen carefully to their point of view, and don’t be dismissive. Recognize that your parents may not understand what you are going through and that it is important to respect their perspective as well.
Negotiate where necessary
It is okay to negotiate or compromise on certain aspects with your parents if it means both parties can come to an understanding. However, don’t be afraid to stand your ground if you feel like a particular boundary should not be crossed.
Founder, Parental Questions
It can be tough to set boundaries with parents, especially if they’re used to being in control. But it’s important to realize that you’re an adult and need to start making decisions for yourself.
Here are a few tips for setting boundaries:
Decide what you’re comfortable with and stick to it
You don’t have to do everything your parents want, and you don’t have to explain yourself every time you say no.
Establish rules and stick to them
If your parents push the envelope, let them know calmly but firmly that those rules still stand.
Be assertive; speak up
If your parents are crossing the line, speak up! It can be difficult, but it’s necessary to maintain healthy boundaries.
Set limits on phone calls and visits
If your parents are always calling or dropping by unannounced, let them know that you need more advance notice so you can prepare for their visit.
Let them know you appreciate them but also you need to make decisions for yourself
Remind them that you are an adult now and have the right to make your own choices.
By setting boundaries with your parents, you’re moving towards a more mature and independent relationship with them. It may take some time to adjust, but it’s worth it in the end!
Chart out a plan for tackling any issues with your parents head-on, and you’ll be able to have healthier relationships with them going forward.
By setting boundaries with your parents, you can establish yourself as an independent adult while still maintaining strong relationships with them.
Here are some tips to help you create healthy boundaries and keep your relationships strong:
Make sure both parties understand the limits of the boundary
It’s important to be clear when setting a boundary; make sure that both you and your parents are aware of what is and isn’t acceptable in the relationship.
Be honest and consistent
Making sure that you are honest about your feelings and needs, as well as staying consistent in enforcing your boundaries, will help your parents understand their importance.
Respect their opinions
Even when a boundary is set, it’s still important to show respect for your parent’s opinion and be willing to compromise if needed.
Know when and how to apologize
Apologizing for your mistakes is a way of showing respect for your parents and maintaining a healthy relationship, even when boundaries have been set.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Disrespectful to Set Boundaries With Parents?
Setting boundaries with parents can be a delicate topic, but it is important to remember that it is not disrespectful to do so. In fact, setting healthy boundaries can actually improve relationships and lead to more respect in the long run.
What Are Good Examples of Boundaries With Parents?
• Communication: Being clear and direct with your parents about your thoughts, feelings, and needs. This includes expressing yourself honestly and respectfully.
• Time and space: Setting limits on the amount of time you spend with your parents and the level of access they have to your personal life. This can include setting aside time for yourself, creating physical space, and respecting each other’s privacy.
• Personal values: Being clear about your own values, beliefs, and opinions and not allowing your parents to dictate them. This includes making your own decisions about relationships, career, and lifestyle choices.
• Financial independence: Establishing financial freedom from your parents, including paying for your own expenses and not relying on them for financial support.
• Emotional support: Seeking emotional support from friends, partners, or professional sources rather than relying on your parents to fill this role. This can help to reduce conflict and promote a healthier relationship with your parents.
• Conflict resolution: Learning how to effectively manage conflict with your parents, including using active listening, compromise, and seeking outside mediation if necessary.
What Are Signs of Poor Boundaries?
• Difficulty saying “no.” If you find yourself constantly agreeing to requests or obligations, even when they go against your own needs and values, it may be a sign of poor boundaries.
• Feeling responsible for others’ emotions. If you constantly feel like you need to fix or manage other people’s emotions, it could indicate a lack of boundaries in your relationships.
• Over-giving. If you find yourself giving more than you receive in a relationship, whether it be your time, energy, or resources, it may be a sign of poor boundaries.
• Difficulty setting limits. If you struggle to set limits with others, whether it be with your time, personal space, or expectations, it may indicate a lack of boundaries.
• Blurring the lines between self and others. If you have trouble distinguishing your own thoughts, feelings, and needs from those of others, it may be a sign of poor boundaries.
• Feeling constantly drained. If you frequently feel drained and exhausted, even after taking care of your own needs, it may be a sign of poor boundaries and overextending yourself.
• Difficulty setting and maintaining personal goals. If you struggle to set and achieve personal goals, it may be a result of poor boundaries, as you may be too focused on the needs and expectations of others.
What Are Some Common Challenges People Face When Setting Boundaries With Parents?
• Guilt and shame: People often feel guilty or ashamed for setting boundaries with their parents, especially if they have been raised to believe that obedience and self-sacrifice are the ultimate virtues. This can make it difficult for them to assert their needs and wants, especially if their parents are critical or controlling.
• Lack of communication skills: Many people struggle with effective communication, particularly when it comes to setting boundaries. They may not know how to express themselves assertively, or they may struggle to articulate their needs and wants in a clear and concise manner.
• Resistance from parents: Some parents may resist or reject the idea of their child setting boundaries with them. They may feel hurt, frustrated, or resentful if their child tries to limit their control or influence. In some cases, parents may even become hostile or abusive if their child sets boundaries.
• Fear of losing the relationship: Many people are afraid of damaging their relationship with their parents if they set boundaries. They may worry that their parents will withdraw their love or support or that they will become estranged from their family.
• Complex family dynamics: Family dynamics can be complex, and setting boundaries with parents can be incredibly challenging if other siblings or family members are involved. People may struggle to balance their own needs and wants with the needs and wants of others in the family.
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