Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children

Do your adult children still live with you or rely on your financial support? Do you think they’re at an age where they should be able to navigate life on their own? As difficult as it is to watch your children struggle, sometimes it’s a necessary part of your job as a parent. This guide explains how to set boundaries with your adult children.

Societal Factors – Why It’s Harder Now for Parents to Set Boundaries

The stereotype of moving out at 18 isn’t the reality for most modern adults. Even though 90% of adult children move out by age 27, 54% move back in with their parents at some point in their lives. It costs more to live and takes longer to build a career now than it did decades ago, and families are seeing the aftermath of those changes. As a result, you may feel guilty for wanting to set boundaries with your adult children.

The Importance of Setting the Right Boundaries: Helping vs. Enabling

There is nothing wrong with wanting to help and support your children at any age. However, you do need to distinguish between helping your children and enabling them. How long can they rely on your financial support? When do they need to establish full independence? Is supporting them preventing you from achieving a good quality of life?

This is a difficult balance to figure out, but it’s crucial in this season of your life. You want to support your children, but not to the detriment of their development or your own happiness. If allowing them to continue their current ways is going to prevent them from succeeding on their own, it’s time to set some boundaries.

When Is the Right Time to Set Boundaries?

Each family and each relationship is unique. Thus, it is impossible to say when the “right” time is to start setting boundaries with your adult children. The fact that you landed on this page indicates that you probably feel like you need to start this process. If your child has a basic set of tools to succeed on their own, it’s time to start allowing them to do so.

How to Gradually Set Boundaries with Your Adult Children

You don’t have to cut your children off completely. You can gradually set boundaries to adapt to their changing lives. For example, you may start requiring your children to pay for their own fuel and car insurance when they get out of high school. You may provide housing, food, and utilities, but they are responsible for working enough to cover those bills.

If your child is in college, you may set boundaries regarding which bills you will pay or how much you contribute towards their college expenses. Example: You pay for their living expenses, but they must earn scholarships and grants to cover their tuition.

If your child is starting their career and living with you to save money, you may have boundaries until they reach a certain savings threshold. Each situation is different, and you have to find what works best for your family. If you need the support of a family counselor, CNLD Testing & Therapy has specialists on staff to assist you.

Get on the Same Page with the Other Parent (When Possible)

Co-parenting doesn’t stop when your children reach adulthood. If your child’s other parent is still in their lives in some way, get on the same page about the boundaries you set. Let’s say your child gets in trouble with the law and has to pay a hefty fine to get out of trouble. If you refuse to pay or require your child to work to pay off that fine, the other parent needs to do the same. Coordinate as much as possible to help your child grow.

“But What If I Let My Child Down?”

Boundaries feel like punishments when you’re in the moment, but they ultimately lead to growth and triumph. Your child cannot rely on you for forever. They need to be self-sufficient. Rest assured that on the other side of this transition, they will thank you for letting them figure life out. There may be stress, struggles, and failures along the way, but you will all come out better for it in the end.