Setting Boundaries with Your Parents

There is this weird limbo when you come home from college on break for the first time where you’re under your parents’ rule again, but you’ve tasted the freedom of being independent. But, of course, it’s not everyone who goes through this. Still, I’ve heard enough horror stories from friends of their parents giving them 10 pm curfews or needing to know where they are at all times, but whatever the case may be, making boundaries with your parents as an adult is important. And no, this doesn’t mean you get to go around disrespecting your parents in their house. 

My anecdote

Let me preface this by saying that my mom is the kind of mom everyone dreams of having. Growing up, she always said the same thing to me. “I’m not raising a kid. I’m raising an adult.” Those words have sat with me ever since. My mom always valued my opinion when it came to decisions that affected my life. For example, when she wanted me to change schools, she told me why. But then she let me “state my case,” arguing why I should be allowed to stay at my school. Ultimately, the final decision was hers to make, but she knew that it affected my life and let me participate in the decision-making process. It’s the reason I have no problem with making decisions now as an adult. But man, sometimes I look at my friends, and I see that my mom didn’t raise them. That’s not to say that their parents aren’t great, but some parents have a harder time letting go of their kids. Some have a hard time realizing that the dynamic between parent and child changes from authoritarian to more of mentorship after moving out. When I moved out and went to college, my mom was always there for me, but in being there for me, she never babied me. If I went to her for advice, that is what she would give me. She never told me what I should do, never forced her opinions on me. Instead, my mom would tell me what she thought she would do if she were in my position. But ultimately, the final decision was now my own. She made sure that by the time I moved out, I could take care of myself. So, thanks, Mom!

Seeting boundaries with your parents

Communication

It sounds cliché to say that communication is key in any relationship but even more so with your parents after moving out. The dynamic changes, or it should. All our lives, our parents are the be-all, end-all authority figures in our lives until one day they aren’t. Sometimes it can be hard for parents to realize that the dynamic has changed. They don’t have authority or power over the decisions in your life anymore. And if they don’t realize the change in your relationship after you move out, it is up to you to tell them about it. You aren’t twelve anymore. You don’t need someone managing every aspect of your life for you.

Boundaries do not mean you are disrespectful

Setting boundaries isn’t a form of disrespect. You set expectations and boundaries with almost everyone in your life, friends, significant others, and co-workers, to name a few. So why would your parents be an exception? The last thing I would want is for my mom or dad to show up unannounced to my apartment. I don’t enjoy the company, but as an introvert, I need to prepare mentally. The key to explaining your boundaries to your parents is how you approach them. It would be best if you came at them with appreciation and gratitude. They are trying their best, and you should recognize that.

Don’t beat around the bush

You’ll always be their kid, and sometimes they have a hard time viewing you as something other than a kid. So if you are staying with them or moving back in temporarily, you might think it’s better to avoid confronting conflict. “I’m only here for a little” is one way to go about it and might keep the peace. But it’s usually better to confront the conflict than avoid it. And if your parents have struggled with respecting your boundaries and privacy before then, this issue won’t disappear overnight, but in the long run, it will be worth it. 

At the end of the day

Boundaries are an important facet of any relationship. Take the time to talk to your parents about setting boundaries. Why is it that they need to know where you are going and with whom? Even though you’ve been gone for a semester, and they didn’t seem to care about trivial things like that when you were away. Maybe it’s because they still see you as the 16-year-old who dented the car, or maybe they aren’t sure what to do now that you’re an adult, so they are defaulting to “parent-mode.” Whatever the case may be, sit down, communicate, be respectful, don’t beat around the bush, and if need be, compromise. You may not get what you want, and you have to respect that you are staying in their house, but who knows? Maybe, if you talk to them like an adult, they might see you like one and treat you as such.

For more on boundaries, read Creating Emotional Boundaries.     

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