• Dr. Bill Walker

Do You Have Healthy Boundaries Established With Your Parents?

Establishing adult to adult boundaries with your parents after you leave home is important to making your own family (husband/kids) a functional and happy family.

Why Boundaries Are Important

You graduate from high school or college and move out on your own. You now

have two identities to balance: you, as an independent adult, and you, as your parent’s child. Some parents have a difficult time letting their child live as an independent adult.

As well, some adult children have a difficult time letting go of their parents to live as independent adults. No matter how old you get you will always be your parent’s child. And this is o.k., as long as you, and your parents, realize your main life role now is that of an independent adult, not as a child.

The challenge to making this happen is to establish new boundaries with your parents that allow you to operate more freely in your role as an independent adult. Boundaries are important as your life can become even more complicated when you get married, as you now add another role to your identity – husband or wife.

How Do You Balance The Different Roles In Your Life?

By establishing boundaries.

Boundaries are the unwritten, but agreed upon rules regarding what behavior is acceptable between the members of a given relationship.

Boundaries allow us to function in different roles in different relationships.

What behavior might have been appropriate between you and your parents when you were in high school may no longer be appropriate now that you are married to your spouse.

An Example

When you opened your first bank account in high school you had no problem with Dad opening your monthly bank statement to see how you were spending your money. Now that you are 30 years old and married is it still appropriate for dad to open your bank statements?

If not, then you and your spouse have to decide what the new rules (boundaries) will be with dad. The old boundary (it being okay to open your bank statement) must be replaced by a new one.

The question is this: Have you become your own person as an adult, or does it seem your parents are still in charge of your life and the decisions you make?

It is easy to see the serious problems that can occur when parents have control over their adult child’s marriage and family. Untold marriages have ended due to the meddling and interference of well-meaning parents into their adult child’s marriage.

Christianly Speaking

Jesus made the need for relationship boundaries clear. “For this reason a man must leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and the two of them shall become one flesh”. (Matthew 19:5).

There is a balance to be found here. On the one hand – we are to ‘honor our father and mother’. But, honoring does not mean we allow our (well meaning) parents to intrude in our marriages to the point the marital relationship is harmed. This is the point Jesus is making in the scripture above.

Adult Child/Parent Boundary Checkup

1. Have you established clear boundaries between you and your parents?

2. Do these boundaries work to establish a healthy separation between your role as a spouse/parent and your role as your parent’s child?

3. If not, what are some things you can do to make the boundaries more clear?

4. Take a piece of paper and write down the areas in your relationship with your parents that need firmer boundaries.

a) Choose the most important one and come up with a plan on what you need to do to create or strengthen a boundary for this area.

5. As hard as it may be, you are going to have to TALK with your parents about how you would like things to be different in your relationship with them.