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When You Want to Break-Up with your Family

News from the British royal family revealed a situation that is becoming more and more prevalent among young people everywhere. It may seem drastic that Prince Harry and Princess Meghan had to break up and move away from their family to achieve space for each other and the lifestyle they hope to enjoy with their baby, but life’s pressures and family obligations can overwhelm a couple trying to live a personal life in public. Breaking up with your family is a last-ditch effort to establish boundaries when they become distorted and blurred.

Why do many families today struggle with adult children feeling as though their parents still run their life? And, why do so many parents of adult children believe their children cannot exist without their help and interference? Sometimes adult children welcome more parental influence, like helping with school loans, rent money, and childcare. They may lean on mom and dad for moral support, often telling their parents intimate details about their lives. Parents want to help their children and feel needed, so they overdo care for their grown children. However, this is the best predictor for raising entitled and codependent children. If you’re depending on your parents for money, emotional, and financial support, it’s tough to tell them you want them to stay out of your business. Unresolved feelings of resentment and irritation can bubble up on both ends unless families make a point of discussing boundaries.

In either situation, it’s important to advocate for yourself and be straight-forward. These suggestions can help you feel close to each other while maintaining privacy.

  1. Figure out where your boundaries are. Unfortunately, most boundaries aren’t noticed until you’re in the heat of the moment. You may find yourself full of rage when your adult child calls needing immediate financial help or you’re attending a family function and your parents bring up something private you shared. What irritates you or frustrates you when your parents bring it up? Are your parents allowed to show up unannounced? Are your grown children showing up at all hours of the night with their children for a sleepover? Writing down the irritations you feel helps you become more aware of how invasive you have become in your loved one’s life. Something as simple as calling your adult child or parent throughout the day may be an annoyance; they resent it but didn’t tell you. It’s important you are gentle but honest with your loved one.

  2. Clearly communicate boundaries and what should be confidential. When you want your parent’s advice, tell them up front you appreciate their advice but will also appreciate them letting go of the topic after they offer it. It demands trust on both sides. If your mom or dad always bring up your weight, tell them that’s hurtful and you’ll appreciate it if they respect you enough to let go and allow you to handle it. If you give your parent the key to your apartment, make sure they know when it’s okay to pop in. If you want them to call first, make that clear up front. Parents should respect their adult children’s property. Part of the reason parents cannot let go is they have to reestablish trust in their child. That means seeing their child as an adult and treating them as such. This will be much easier if the adult child acts like a responsible adult.

  3. Stick to your boundaries but be willing to negotiate personal space. Establishing healthy boundaries is a work in progress for some families. That doesn’t mean it’s dysfunctional; it means you may have to tell your parents or child more than one time about the established boundary. Children who grow up in different cultures adhere to the rules of the culture; if those children move to the United States and want to be more like their friends, it may increase conflict in a home where there are blurred or weak boundaries. Part of being a healthy adult is owning your thoughts and actions. Being able to care and advocate for yourself is a sign of emotionally maturity. Reminding your parents that they did a good job raising you and being willing to negotiate helps ease their worry and trust you more.

Relationships aren’t static – they change and evolve. Families that can discuss tough issues, such as boundaries, without exploding or stonewalling are on the right path to respecting each other’s space and feeling more emotionally connected to each other.


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