Setting Boundaries With Adult Children At A Healthy Level

Last Updated on January 24, 2024 by Lori Pace

It is normal to feel a strong instinct and desire for your children to be successful, regardless of their age. It is hard to watch our children suffer or flounder. You may feel the need to help an adult child in trouble. Maybe they are in dire financial need of financial assistance because they lost their job. You might be worried about their mental health and addiction. But there is a healthy way of showing support, love, and acceptance to adult children, setting boundaries. Because sometimes stepping in can lead to slippery slopes and cause you to cross the line from enabling to helping. 

These boundaries can be difficult to see and parents often cross them with good intentions. Crossing the line between enabling and supporting can have unintended negative consequences on your relationship with your child and your adult child’s independence and confidence.

Reasons To Support Your Adult Children While Setting Healthy Boundaries

They are struggling, and you can see that they aren’t getting a break. You love your grandchildren and don’t want them to be harmed by your child’s struggles. If you have the financial and time resources, why not?

You are responsible for your child’s behavior or their problems. If you are afraid that your child will become upset if you don’t help them, you should stop talking to them or keep your grandchildren from you.

It’s A Win-Win

Your adult child is independent and responsible. However, he/she may occasionally ask for your assistance if something happens or there’s a mistake. If your adult children needed assistance in the past, you provided it. Your child accepted responsibility for regaining their independence as soon as possible.

Your comfort zone is where you can offer the assistance your adult child needs without causing undue emotional or financial stress to yourself or your family. This is a healthy level of setting boundaries with your adult children.

Danger Zone In Relationship With Adult Children Without Setting Boundaries

Unhealthy Helping Enables Bad Behaviors

Your adult child has helped you many times before and it is expected that you will continue to help them no matter what. You might feel manipulated, resentful or taken advantage of. He/she is not making progress in decreasing their dependence on you and seems to be too comfortable with the arrangement. They may not be doing all they can to improve their situation.

Unhealthy Helping Enables Bad Behaviors

Your child says things like, “If you loved me, you would help me”. Your help has left you financially, emotionally, and physically depleted. You seem to be more invested in solving the problems of your adult children than they are.

Choosing New Behaviors & Setting New Expectations

It is difficult to change unhealthy ways of helping others. Sometimes it can be hard to stop helping, even if it is in everyone’s best interests. If you feel you have to stop helping your adult child, here are some steps:

  • How are you benefiting? Do you feel that you can control something frightening? Is it nice to feel needed? You can examine your motivation to find healthier ways to meet your needs or reduce anxiety.
  • Talk to your adult children about setting boundaries and limits for your assistance. You might say, “I’m here for you. Let’s make a plan to solve this problem together.” You can do this, I am certain.
  • Ask yourself: “What are my children capable of doing on theirs?” Instead of being the one responsible for solving their problems, collaborate with them. Together, create a plan of how you will reduce your help. Then, here’s what’s important: stick to it!
  • Your adult child should receive emotional support and know that you are there for them. You can validate their feelings without trying to change or fix them.
  • Be prepared to see your child upset, and learn how to accept the discomfort of others. This can be difficult! This one may require the help of a therapist.
  • Setting boundaries for your adult children will help them gain independence, which in turn will improve their well-being. It is important not to send the wrong message by implying that your child is incapable.
  • If your adult child asks you for help, be prepared with something to say. Perhaps you could say, “Wow, this is happening.” You will need to take some time to reflect on your role in this. Then, decide if it is in everyone’s best interests.
  • You are not the only one. Even if your children aren’t teenagers or babies, parenting can be difficult.
Lori Pace
Lori Pace

Lori Pace is a single mother of three daughters ages 7 and under. As a working mom from home, she balances kids, work and two crazy dogs with humor and love. Follow Lori as she honestly gives tips and advice based on her own experiences as a single mom!