Back to point #6 in my Top 10 List for Parents of Adult Children -
Have healthy boundaries!
As parents and kids navigate the turbulent waters of kiddos becoming adults and parents of kiddos becoming parents of adults, the concept of developing healthy boundaries is right at the top of my "what keeps relationships healthy" list.
So, my last post was a teensy-tiny little rant about what boundaries AREN'T. They aren't an excuse to chop people out of your lives with no explanation, no warning, no conversation.
Boundaries, from the reading I did, ARE defined like this:
Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others.
Boundaries, for grown up folks, are about the establishment of acceptable behavior that we allow into our lives. Boundaries allow us to be ourselves separate from other people. Boundaries are especially important for young people, as they start to establish a life apart from their parents.
For young adults, this means, you start to get to decide, as you grow up, when and how and where you will engage with your family of origin. Hopefully, if all goes well, you will work hard to find fun and healthy ways to engage with your parents. But it is, in the end, your choice. Parents, it will go well with us if we realize this and accept it with grace and a touch of humor.
For parents, this also means, we get to decide, as our kids become young, self-sustaining (God, please!) young people, when and how and where we will engage with our kids. Hopefully, if all goes well, we will work hard to find fun and healthy ways to engage with our adult kids. In the end, it is our choice. Adult kids, it will go well with you if you realize this and accept it with grace and a touch of humor.
Young adults, you can decide how often you want to engage with your parents by phone, text, Skype or e-mail. They may try to break your boundaries, but ultimately, you get to decide. Stick to your guns! Your parents will eventually learn.
You can decide how much of your life you want to share with your parents. Be wise here. If you don't want advice on certain issues, you may want to, as my grandpa used to say, "breast your cards."
Young adults, you can decide how you want to engage family vacations, holidays, meals, gatherings, etc. If these gatherings are really hard, toxic, abusive or flat out awful, think of creative and loving ways to limit your exposure.
Parents, you can decide how often you want to engage your adult kids in all the various forms of communication. A good idea, however? Ask them what works for them. They have busy, full, hopefully productive lives and they can't always chat with us at our convenience.
We get to decide how much of our lives we want to share with our adult kids. A hint? They are probably way less interested than we think …
Parents, we can decide how we want to do vacations, holidays, meals, gatherings, etc. But we can't always expect our adult kids to show up like they used to when they lived at home with us. Be flexible! Be festive! Be fun! If plans fall through, do something on your own. Don't make your kids feel like they are your only recourse for a good time. Too. Much. Pressure.
And parents - if your adult kids create a toxic environment, it is fully within your parental rights to creatively and lovingly think of ways to limit exposure.
Boundaries are hard.
Boundaries demand gentle, firm, truthful conversation.
Boundaries call for grace.
But boundaries make for strong families, like fences make for great neighbors.