5 Tips for Setting Boundaries with Your Parents
Let’s look at some expert tips about setting boundaries with parents. We understand it can feel awkward and even frightening, but when it gets really tough, remind yourself of this: It’s necessary, healthy, and natural to have boundaries in my life.
1: Consider professional help from a therapist
Sometimes, it can be difficult to communicate your adult needs and wants to your parents if it’s the first time you’re doing it, or if you’re learning how to set boundaries with toxic parents or even friends. It can be hard to articulate and clearly define what your wants and needs truly are. The entire process can feel very intimidating.
A professional online therapist or other mental health expert can prepare you for challenging healthy boundary-setting conversations with your parents. Of course, your parents can join you in a session to discuss your needs in a group setting if you think that the additional support will help.
Studies suggest that therapists can also help you and your parents identify any toxic behaviors that are hurting your long-term relationship. So, if you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your parents directly, consider seeking professional guidance from a therapist.
2: Keep it positive
Keeping things positive, lighthearted even, can help you get through the conversation and begin to move forward with your new roles in place. This doesn’t have to be a knockdown, drag-out fight between you and your parents.
Reinforcing that you love and respect them might help your parents take the news and internalize your needs without feeling threatened or hurt. Be open to the idea that it may take them some time to adjust and accept what you’re saying, but if you can steer the conversation in a way that’s not angry or argumentative, you’ll have a better chance of walking away with both parties feeling OK and hopeful about the future of the relationship.
3: Have an open conversation
It’s good and healthy for people to communicate their needs and wants, and then be respected and honored for that courage. After all, we all want to be heard and understood.
One of the best methods for communicating boundaries clearly is to simply state your desires openly and without reservation. Use I statements — “I feel like you’re…” — that aren’t directing blame. Talking about emotional boundaries really doesn’t have to be combative. To accomplish your goal, try:
- Speaking with your parents to discern what they want and need from you as your relationship changes.
- Asking your parents why they’re still trying to manage your life and what they think it will bring.
- Checking in to see if your parents are feeling lonely since you moved out of the home.
- Inquiring about your parents’ personal life and health.
In general, it might help to approach the conversation with a sense of being concerned about how they’re doing, too. A continual meddling in your affairs could simply be a misled way they’re expressing a desire to spend a little more time with you.
4: Don’t feel guilty
It’s perfectly normal (and OK) to have some anxiety when you’re setting boundaries with toxic parents. After all, you do love them, and you definitely don’t want to hurt them. The relationship can be taxing at times, and course-correcting can be a tough process.
However, it’s good to remember that appropriate boundaries are good, for all people, in every type of relationship. The lessons you’ll learn setting boundaries with your parents, even if they’re toxic, will carry over into so many aspects of your life and world.
Without reasonable boundaries, or with flimsy boundaries that go unenforced, there will be continual confusion in your relationship. Feelings of anger and resentment can arise, and arguments may result. It’s so much better to express yourself clearly and firmly, without guilt. You’re doing nothing wrong. It’s OK for you to set family and friendship boundaries, and then insist your wishes are respected.
5: Stand your ground
If, after your open conversation where you express your clear limits, your parents continue their behaviors, you have choices.
- You can back downfeel guilty about feeling weak, bite your tongue, accept their behaviors against your boundaries, and hope for the best in the future.
- You can reinforce the boundaries you’ve setlet your parents know you’re sincere about them, and if needed, take some time away from the relationship and situation until things relax.
“Setting healthy boundaries is for your benefit AND theirs. The relationship may not always turn out the way that you dreamed of, but you will be able to walk away with the confidence that you are choosing to love and respect yourself.”
Talkspace Therapist Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD, CDBT
Setting boundaries with parents can be scary, but you are strong enough to do it. Be firm, be kind, be thoughtful, and you’ll be fine. You’ll be so grateful you did it, especially when you can feel healthy and happy in your relationship, whatever that means.