Healthy Boundaries for Young Adults: 3 Tips for Parents

By:  Tyson Rittenmeyer

“How do we set boundaries with our young-adult-children without being punitive or enabling?”

This was a primary theme in the questions asked by parents during Living Well Transitions’ Spring 2016 Parent Weekend Workshop. To offer continued support on this important topic, here are some basic tips:

1.   Get clear
The first thing parents need to do is to get clear on what their personal boundaries are involving their adult son or daughter. These could include emotional boundaries like timing of communication or financial boundaries regarding lifestyle choices that a parent will or will not support. This clarity allows the boundary to be rooted in parents’ values and needs rather than an attempt to manipulate your son/daughter to do (or not do) something.

2.   Be realistic (if possible)
Ideally, boundary setting is a win-win for everyone. Creating boundaries that honor parents’ needs and are realistic for the young adult to integrate is the desired target. An example of this might be a parent who wants their young adult child to be financially independent despite the young adult having no tangible real-life experience paying for their own life. In order to set the young adult up for success, parents could design boundaries that allow the young adult to gradually practice moving toward financial independence (i.e. being responsible for their own spending money first, then cable bill, then groceries, etc). This deliberate approach helps parents follow through with the terms of the boundaries knowing that the consequences for the young adult might be uncomfortable, but manageable.

3.   Stay committed
Finally, it is crucial that parents try to consider the possible outcomes that a boundary may create and be wiling to tolerate all potential resulting situations. This overall view is imperative in creating boundaries that can be held in the long run. Most parent boundaries are tested at one point or another, and if a young adult knows that a parent will relent, he/she may focus on making that parent cave in. 

Parents of LWT clients can expect a larger discussion involving boundaries in a future Parent Forum call. 


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