Raising Adult Children

Personal Boundaries With Your Adult Child

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personal boundaries between parent and adult child

You Get to Decide

In the article Boundaries With Your Adult Child, we talked about the definition of core boundaries within a relationship. But there are also a different kind of boundary that we can call personal boundaries.

There are many different kinds of boundaries but for the sake of this article, we are going to concentrate on one. Personal boundaries with your adult child are the ones that are up to you. You get to decide what is important to you and where you want your boundary to be. There is no right or wrong, there is just what you decide.

Give Me Some Examples of Personal Boundaries with My Adult Child

You are about to become a grandparent. You are excited and are busy shopping for little booties and “I love Gramma” t-shirts. Then, at the gender reveal party, you overhear someone talking to your daughter.

Gee, you are so lucky your Mom lives so close! It’s like a built-in babysitter!

As if that comment wasn’t enough to pour ice-water onto your free as a bird lifestyle, your daughter’s laughing agreement seals the deal. There is no way you had pictured a life of babysitting. In your mind, grandkids are great because you enjoy all the fun parts and send them home when they get cranky. You don’t mind babysitting once in a while – but a built in sitter? Uh-uh, no way!

And voila! A boundary is born. In the exact same situation, another grandmother-to-be might be excited at the prospect of babysitting grandkids. There is no right or wrong, there is just what is right for you. Your relationship is no more or less healthy based on what you decide.

Carla knew she didn’t want to have kids staying at home until they were thirty. She set a couple of boundaries for her adult children. They had one year after high school to decide what they wanted to do. Afterwards, they could live at home if they were attending post-secondary but if they decided to work, they paid rent.

Respectful Personal Boundaries

There is one “but” to the idea that there is no right or wrong boundary. And it is an important one.

You have to communicate your boundaries to your adult child as soon as you set them. It isn’t fair to your child if you never tell them that you expect them to leave home at 21 years-old. Their birthday comes along and you inform them it is time to leave. Pretty much guaranteed they will be hurt and resentful.

Let your expectant daughter know what your boundaries are around babysitting grandkids. Don’t wait until they buy tickets to the dinner theatre to celebrate their child’s six-week birthday.

When they were in high school, Carla made sure to explain to her children her expectations when they graduated.

Two-Sided Boundaries

Telling your child about your expectations and boundaries is a good time to discover theirs as well. If they haven’t thought about it, this is also a teaching moment. Ask them what their expectations are for themselves as an adult child. How often do they feel is appropriate to go home for a visit? Do they want you to call before coming over to their apartment?

You won’t be able to think of every expectation all at once, but it will open up the conversation and give you a shared language. If down the road you discover another boundary you have, you can say to them “remember when we talked about boundaries…”

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