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brother and sister setting healthy boundaries with parents at the dinner table
Relationships

8 Tips to Setting Healthy Boundaries with Parents

Right from when we were all kids, we’ve heard that we must respect our elders no matter what, which is accurate but only to a certain extent. It might sound cliche, but respect does go both ways. 

Young or old, setting healthy boundaries with parents is no walk in the park for anyone. It doesn’t matter what the relationship is like; we all face difficulties sometimes. 

One of the most common things that people struggle with within a parent-child relationship is maintaining boundaries with their parents without being rude or inconsiderate. 

Sometimes, parents may overstep boundaries without realizing they’re doing so. It is essential to understand where the issues stem from in cases like these and point them out to your parents. 

More times than not, parents have a hard time accepting that their kid is now a grown-up and wants their space. The thought may not necessarily be a bad one. Still, it may cause a lot of trouble with privacy and other issues in the parent-child relationship. 

When you were a kid, your parents made almost all your decisions for you. With time, you eventually moved on to make your own decisions. 

However, giving up this control over your life may not be the easiest thing for your parents to do. It gives rise to a toxic cycle of overinvolvement and regular challenging of your boundaries when this happens. They may even, at times, choose to ignore your privacy completely. 

The thing about ignorance and struggles with setting healthy boundaries with parents is that it puts the relationship at risk for lasting damage. It causes conflicts and arguments that can seem unavoidable to a certain extent. 

Setting healthy boundaries with your parents is essential for numerous reasons, such as:

  • It prevents you from building resentment towards parents
  • Promotes a healthy relationship
  • Encourages enjoyable conversation and interactions  
  • Help has an identity outside of your relationship with your parents
  • Helps avoid disappointment by setting realistic expectations 

If you’re someone that wants to set boundaries with your parents but just don’t know how-to, we’re here to help. 

8 tips to help establish and maintain boundaries between you and your parents.

1. Take a step in their shoes.

Parents of old age or culture find the concept of boundaries a lit unnecessary because of their upbringing, parents, and society. 

 It’s necessary to understand 

  • where your parents are coming from
  • and why parents think they don’t need to maintain boundaries with kids/teenagers/adults. 

The easiest way to map out boundaries is by addressing the root cause behind the issue. 

Why? When you address the issues you seem to have with your parents; you will better understand their perspective and why they seem to have trouble keeping a limit. 

  • Refusal to maintain boundaries may be due to many reasons, one of which may be loneliness. 

If you’ve moved out of your house, chances are your parents miss you, not just a little, but a lot. If they seem to show up to your place uninvited or call you randomly, it might be because they want to talk to you and because they miss you. 

  • Parents who are constantly trying to be a part of your life choices might be dealing with midlife crises or personal age issues. 

To parents, kids are their savior and happy bits of life. Your parents will try to find you whenever life gets hard for them. To escape loneliness, sadness, or life crises, parents will want to be with you and in your life to distract themselves from the real deal. 

No matter the case, understanding the situation is the first step towards conflict resolution. Listening plays a significant role in maintaining healthy relationships; one must not ignore its importance. 

So, take a deep breath and listen to your parents. Profuse dates where you guys can talk and connect. Sometimes, parents just want to speak and be in your presence. 

2. Respect your parents 

Treat others how you would like to be treated. Setting healthy boundaries with your parents goes a long way when you treat them with respect. Talking politely is a sign of respect. 

Talk to your parents politely when putting across your boundaries. Calmly explain why setting these healthy boundaries are required and the outcome of setting them. Do it with utter care and sensitivity, so they don’t feel excluded or like they’re not a part of your life anymore. 

girl setting healthy relationship with parents by meeting In the middle and letting spend times with their grandkids.

Show love and appreciation in the way you speak to them, and you will notice things going so much more smoothly than when you were to be inconsiderate. 

An example of how you can put across your boundaries to your parents in a polite manner is as follows:

They brought you a milkshake but forgot that you’ve only recently found out you’re lactose intolerant. 

In situations like these, you may say something like, “Thank you for thinking about me and bringing this milkshake. I appreciate the thought, but unfortunately, I’ve only recently found that I’m lactose intolerant. I wouldn’t like to put you in a position where you would have to waste your money, so please check with me the next time before you pick something up.”

Note: You must identify and understand your feelings first to set boundaries.

In doing so, you may ask yourself questions such as:

  • What am I feeling?
  • Why do I feel this way?
  • What is the right thing to do about this?

Moving forward with setting boundaries will be easier if you know what you want the edge to be and why you want it to be set. 

3. Confrontation

It can be challenging to get your parents to realize that you’re an adult now and can handle things well independently. It can be troubling when your parents treat you as a child because they simply cannot move on or treat you as an adult.

girl setting healthy relationship with parents by meeting In the middle and respecting them.

Conflict resolution involves confrontation. Be direct and talk to your parents about what’s bothering you and what they can do to make it better. If you’re someone that hates conflict and keeps quiet to maintain family peace, it’s going to get worse. 

Sometimes, peace comes after war. In this case, you must choose confrontation over fake peace to protect your mental health and inner peace. 

  • Confrontation might sound harsh, but it will be direct and resonating. 
  • Your parents might get hurt because of the indifference in opinion, but your parents must listen to you and understand you in order to have a healthy relationship.

Be direct when addressing your parents. Be assertive and not rude. 

4. Give out specifications 

Do: Be as transparent and honest as you can 

Don’t: Leave room for vagueness or confusion 

When having conversations about boundaries, always make it a point to be direct and give out specifications. Be clear in the way you speak. Remember, it’s best to have a conversation like this in person. 

Put across your point as clearly as possible by saying things such as “Please don’t do this” or “I don’t like it when you____________, so I’d like you to __________ instead.”

Address the situations from the past where your parents may have refused to accept/maintain boundaries or conditions. Don’t just address the problem, but come up with a possible solution that’s good for both parties. 

Address what parental activities bother you, and then guide your parents on not being toxic/disrespectful or overinvolved as a parent. This will create a sense of accountability for problems, and your parents will know what they can do to bring a change. 

5. Meet your parents in the middle 

While setting healthy boundaries with your parents , ensure that your they don’t go unheard. If you want your parents to listen to you, you must also listen to them. 

Start with smaller goals to establish boundaries and then move on to bigger ones. 

Help your parents adjust to your needs by making it as easy as possible.

Build boundaries that are flexible, changeable, and acceptable to both parties.

For instance, when you are moving out or away from your parents— make sure you meet them every weekend/once a week/twice a month, or whatever seems flexible to both of you.

Be as gentle about your decisions as possible— harsh conclusions will hurt your parents more than your formed boundaries.  

Remember to put yourself first in the process and not do anything you’re not okay with. At the same time, cherish your parent’s choices as well. 

What you can do to form a sort of middle ground is:

  • Set and emphasize your boundary 
  • Ask your parents’ opinion and what they find fit. 
  • Suggest an option/alternative if ideas oppose. 

By ‘putting ourselves first,’ we essentially choose our mental and physical health first. Parents usually wish to maintain a relationship without any personal space and boundaries. Undergoing that relationship can be controlling, overpowering, constricting, and exhausting— it can affect your mental health and lead you towards anxiety. 

It’s necessary to put yourself first to save yourself from hatred and mental exhaustion.

If you’re not okay with discussing specific topics about your personal life, don’t. Please don’t go out of your way to seek your parents’ approval; it will only cause long-term damage to the relationship. 

Flimsy boundaries are no good for anyone involved in the relationship. When being direct, be polite and ask your parents why they seem to have trouble accepting and maintaining boundaries. 

Take a step by step approach as:

1: Ask what the problem is 

2: Address it 

3: Find a solution 

4: Suggest an alternative 

While your parents don’t have to agree to all your decisions in life, it is vital for them to feel appreciated and loved for their values. 

6. Look at the long-term goal. 

A sense of guilt seems to be associated with ‘putting yourself first.’ We’ve all felt that tiny voice in our head saying things like “You’re selfish,” “you are mean and harsh to your parents,” “Don’t hurt your parents even if you stake your health.”

Before you board the guilt trip, understand that ‘self-love’ and ‘putting yourself first is not selfish; it’s a necessity. Similarly, people who make you feel guilty are not worth a thought. 

Remind yourself that: 

  • This guilt is only temporary, but the positive outcome of setting a boundary is a permanent one. 
  • You’re only setting boundaries to protect the relationship you share with your parents. 
  • By setting boundaries, you’re making the relationship healthy. 

Set boundaries and be firm in maintaining them. If your parents ever crossed a border, call them out; there’s nothing wrong with that! Setting boundaries will save you from hating your parents or detachment

Remember that pushover boundaries do more harm than good to a relationship. They cause confusion and toxic cycles of disrespectful behavior. 

7. Take up space and do it unapologetically. 

Parents may struggle with respecting the limits set between. They may also seem like they’re having a tough time understanding why you’ve set boundaries and why they are essential to you.

person setting healthy boundaries with parents by moving out

Don’t hesitate to be an individual if your parents don’t understand your boundaries, even after a thousand discussions. It is okay to take up space and speak your mind. 

Distancing yourself or giving yourself space to clear your head is essential to evaluate why your boundaries are not wrong. Once you’re clear about why you want to set boundaries, maintain them with a healthy mind. 

8. Consult a professional

Setting healthy boundaries with your parents is not an easy task. If you think you have trouble, you can always seek professional help. If you don’t know where to start or have no clue how to communicate the importance of boundaries to your parents, consulting a professional will be beneficial. 

The guilt that we experience while setting boundaries can signify a more significant issue, and a therapist will guide you about it. 

All mental health professionals are trained to identify and help toxic relationship patterns to change them into healthy relationships for their clients. Therapy is a two-way street where a professional will help you help yourself. 

A therapist can also play the role of a mediating third party between you and your parents in case you have trouble communicating openly with them for whatever reason.  

Recognize that you are responsible for yourself and only yourself.

Embracing that you’re responsible for yourself and your happiness can make it easier for you to set boundaries. It is okay to reevaluate your relationship with your parents and the kind of conversations you engage in. 

If you feel like something is not suitable for you, respect that feeling and don’t do it. Tell yourself, “to protect your emotional well-being, boundaries are necessary.” 

And in case you need a reminder:

  • You’re not obligated to listen to your parents at all times 
  • “Giving birth doesn’t equate to owning kids.”
  • You don’t have to be a participant in one-sided conversations, especially with a parent
  • You’re not obligated to pay the therapist’s role with your parents 
  • You don’t have to defend your parents
  • It’s okay to disagree with your parent’s opinion on your career or relationship choices
  • You can’t always be available for your parents at all times
  • It’s not your duty to change plans because they ask you to 
  • You don’t have to talk about uncomfortable topics of conversation 
  • You’re not responsible for your parent’s fiscal situations/ problems  
  • Your parents’ approval is not the most essential thing in the world 

How can you start the process of communicating a boundary?

Communicating a boundary can be difficult, especially when it comes to parents. Several steps are involved, and it may get confusing to understand where you can start communicating a boundary. 

Use this sentence to start a conversation while setting a boundary with your parents:

“I love you and our relationship matters a lot to me. I hope you know that. But I feel ______________________ when you ____________________. Right now, I want to take care of myself first, so I don’t like doing ___________. I need you to _______________. 

Remember that setting a boundary may sometimes take a while for both parties to come to terms with, and you need to stick to them. 

General tips that can help you with setting healthy boundaries with your parents:

1. Use the word ‘No’ more often.

Always saying ‘Yes’ even when you want to say ‘No’ can be very unhealthy in forming and maintaining healthy relationships. If you’re someone that says yes to please other people at the cost of your mental health, you might want to reconsider. 

Say no when you don’t want to do something, you might feel bad about it now, but it can be beneficial in the long run. Stand up for yourself whenever necessary. 

2. Know that boundaries may feel wrong 

There can be times when you feel extreme guilt for setting boundaries; this is normal. Your love for your parent doesn’t want you to hurt them in any way possible. 

No one but you should be okay with your boundaries. If your limitations make someone else uncomfortable, understand that it’s their problem to deal with, not yours!

In Conclusion 

Boundaries are there to help you maintain and form good relationships with everyone around you. They allow you to honor your needs and personal space; they’re essential. 

Help them understand that they may always be your parents, but you’re not a child anymore and do so with love.

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by Genesis Gutierrez

Genesis is the founder of Harness Magazine, a digital media company that celebrates and elevates the voices of women around the world. A first-generation college graduate, Genesis holds a degree in from UCLA with hopes of going back for a Masters in Social Work.

Through her work as an editor-in-chief of Harness, Genesis has dedicated herself to amplifying the stories of women specifically marginalized communities. She is committed to creating space for those who are often left out of mainstream conversations, and believes that storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have for building community and sparking social change.


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