Many people understand the importance of adults having boundaries with their kids and teens. Usually these boundaries are a general criteria of behaviors and expectations, as well as consequences for when the boundaries are broken. Sometimes these rules are unspoken and other times they’re displayed in the home for all to see. Having boundaries allows us to operate within a healthy framework in both our family and the world because of the increased security and respect in the system. However, what isn’t always discussed is the need for teens or adult children to also have boundaries for how they interact with family members, even parents, if the relationship has aspects that aren’t healthy.
Having boundaries with parents can happen in many ways, depending on the family system and the differing levels of health within it. Some adult children need to limit the amount that they share with their parents, while others need to have limits on the amount of time they spend with parents. Sometimes hard boundaries need to be set, such as not being around and caretaking if they’re drinking again or not hosting everyone for Christmas every year. Sometimes these boundaries can sound unfair or insensitive, but the usual outcome of having and maintaining boundaries is a healthier relationship with your family.
Boundaries work because when you know that you have safeguards in place, you’re free to engage with the challenging family member in a healthier manner given the time that you have. It also allows you to have rules regarding how you’re treated or spoken to, because regardless of age, we all deserve to be respected by those around us. Different cultures have differing levels of boundaries within families, but each culture has some semblance of agreed upon boundaries and expectations that should be upheld. Many families automatically have healthy boundaries in place, but unfortunately sometimes we have to be the first ones to enact them, which is challenging. However, once we have established our personal boundaries with our parents and families, we’re able to maintain our space and our emotional health as well as model these healthy behaviors for others.