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Setting Healthy Boundaries with Your Adult Children

Highlights from our Support for Seniors Webinar Series

On April 27, we hosted a zoom webinar on Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. We had a number of people attend and ask some great questions. But for those who missed the presentation, we're sharing key points & highlights.

At SAiF, we talk a lot about boundaries and why they're so important for healthy relationships. In this case, we discussed why it's so important when it comes to the issue of elder abuse.


When seniors are maybe feeling powerless, intimidated, or that they're being manipulated or coerced, setting boundaries can be critically important. This can be particularly challenging to do with your adult children. After all, that bond between parent and child can be powerful and it's often a delicate balancing act of managing family dynamics at the best of times. When you may depend on that adult child for caregiving, connection to grandchildren, or simply support in living independently, it can be difficult to establish and reinforce healthy boundaries.

However, those boundaries are critical to maintaining healthy relationships with our children, without resentment, without one taking advantage of the other, without abuse.


Please remember that establishing healthy boundaries for yourself isn't selfish or unloving. It's the best way to give your children the wings they need to become responsible adults. And for those that are independent, to ensure that you both have a respectful and loving relationship even as you both get older.


Now it would be great if we were able to set those healthy boundaries early and not have to deal with any issues whatsoever! But that seldom happens, right? Usually, we get to a breaking point of some kind - emotionally, financially, mentally, or maybe all of those at the same time. What can we do when the boundaries were never there or have been eroded or ignored and you're feeling you're at your wits' end?

STOP: Stop accepting the status quo. This is your life. Take steps in getting YOUR life back in control. Small steps will lead to bigger steps and eventually you will be running your life once again.


ASSEMBLE: Gather those people you trust and who will support what you are doing and will be there to cheer you on.


This could be: family members, friends, other adult children (caution here as you do not want to pressure one child against another). Seek out professional supports such as

Gather information to share with your adult child when they insist you’re their only option. You may be their easiest option but very rarely are you their only option. There are many social programs from food banks, to shelters, to income supports, & employment agencies. You can have compassion without sacrificing yourself.


NIP EXCUSES: Do not to continue to accept excuses or allow yourself to be manipulated with excuses, lies, or half truths. Listen to your inner voice. You know when you are not being told the whole truth. Remind yourself there are other supports beside you (some listed in assemble). You are not a bank, flop house, car rental agency…What would your adult child do if you were not there? Nip that behaviour and those excuses in the bud. Being firm doesn't mean you have to be unkind.


IMPLEMENT: Create a plan of action and STICK to it. For example, tell your adult child,

  • “You have 30 days to find your own place and move out. If you choose not to leave, I will bring in the authorities and have you removed." or

  • "You have 30 days to adjust your budget as I no longer am going to be supplementing your monthly household income.”

Remember you need to be prepared to follow through. If you don’t, there is no reason that your adult child needs to take responsibility for their own actions.


TRUST: Trust in yourself, use your assembled team to support your decision and hold firm to your boundaries and what is right for you.


YOU ARE THE SOLUTION: Only you have control over your home, vehicle, spare time and financial resources. You can give them all away but where will that leave you? And where will that leave your child if they haven't developed the skills to not be dependent on you?


These boundaries are not just about you and preserving your sanity and your financial means to live independently, safely, & securely. It's also about helping your children take ownership and responsibility over their own lives. It's actually a loving and responsible parent thing to do. And yes, it can be hard. You already know this because parenting can often be hard, right? We understand. But we also see the impact on so many families when healthy boundaries are not set and maintained. We want the best for you and your children. We want the best for all families. And setting healthy boundaries is critical to establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.


If you need a little support with this process, give us a call. We're happy to help because we know that taking that first step can be a little daunting. Teresa can be reached at 780.460.2195 ext 305. Or email her at teresa@saifsociety.ca.

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