One of the biggest problems in dysfunctional families is the lack of boundaries in relationships. There are so many resources about boundaries with kids and parents but there isn't much for old parents who spent most of their lives when there was no social media and lack of resources online for dealing with all this.
Parents are next to God when it comes to loving and caring. But when the love and care are not coupled with the right kind of discipline and limits then it can not only damage kids but also make the lives of parents difficult along with ruining the relationship with them.
Though a parent's heart doesn't know the limit to which they should show affection to their children. But putting "boundaries' and saying "no" is essential for a healthy environment that allows everyone's personal growth and overall peace and harmony in the family and relationships.
Here are some tips on how parents can have healthy boundaries with their adult children.
- Do not bear their expenses if they are earning. Except for some exceptional cases like medical emergencies etc. I know parents who live in rags and support the lavish lifestyle and other luxury expenses of their children who are earning but are unable to afford all that in their own salaries.
- Do not do their share of chores unless there is some medical issue with them. Grown-up people must do their chores by themselves, this is common sense and they should understand this. In fact, at this age, they can take care of you on the physical level, not the other way.
- Do not over-expect from them. Have realistic expectations in terms of what they achieve in their career and other life aspects by keeping in mind their circumstances, health conditions, potentials, talents, abilities, and interest level. You can guide them if they need it but let them choose what they think is best for them.
- Do not give unwanted advice in their married life. They are adults and they know what they are doing. It's advised not to interfere unless there is "abuse" involved.
- Do not try to control their parenting. Show your love for your grandchildren by showing care and affection but do not dictate your child and their spouse on how they should parent their own children.
- Do not worry about, "what others would say" about how your children have turned out because that is not the measure of your parenting skills. The efforts that you've made are what decides if you were good parents, not the result of those efforts. And it's okay if only "you" and "God" know those efforts. Expecting everyone to validate will only stress you and your relation with your children.
- Do not force them to spend money on you unless you really need it. Family is meant to support each other in times of need but never put pressure on anyone unless there is really a need.
- Do not dictate too much how your children should treat each other. Apart from being your children they are also siblings to each other and being adults they can decide what they need or need not do for each other unless there is some serious issue that needs your involvement.
- Do not allow them to talk with you or the other parent in offensive language. Let them know in a calm voice that "it is not okay with you" and you will not accept this in spite of all the love you have for them.
- Do not join them in mocking or insulting the other parent. Do not pit them against the other parent and do not pit your partner against any child.
- Do not force them to spend special events of their life like birthdays, anniversaries, or grandchildren's birthdays with you. You had so many chances before they got married and if you would have really made them feel valued you wouldn't need to force them now. Also, now their new family has some expectations from them and your unnecessary interference may cause problems over there.
- Do not defend them if they do something bad to someone. Many parents take the side of their children when they abuse their partner. Either stay neutral or analyze the situation completely before taking sides. This doesn't mean you can't show love to your child if he goes the wrong way. Be there for him but do not invalidate the pain they caused to someone else. Show them that you care for them and help them take accountability for their actions. Your love and support will make it easy.
- Never scold them in presence of their spouse and children.
- Do not try to control(directly or indirectly) their relationship with others, including God.
- Do not allow them to control your relationships with others, including God.
- Focus on your life and other relationships. Do not feel consumed by worries about them which is one very common thing in dysfunctional families. You too deserve your love and attention.
Do not think that you can control or change their fate. This will save you from an enormous amount of anxiety and stress. Do not be angry at your children for making wrong life choices. Anger will reduce your efficiency in helping and guiding them.
Forgive yourself for everything you couldn't do for them which you think would have made their life better. After all, you did what you could with whatever you had.
Guide them and pray for them whenever you feel worried. Focus on your efforts and leave the results to God. Happy parenting.
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