03 April, 2024

When your children become adults, it’s natural for your roles in each other’s lives to change.

Boundaries are like guidelines that keep our relationships with loved ones balanced, healthy, and safe.

If you’re feeling stress, strain, or dissatisfaction in your relationships with your adult children or grandchildren, it may be time to set some boundaries.

In this blog post, we’ll review signs it’s time to set boundaries, how to set boundaries with your adult children, and examples of healthy family boundaries. We’ll also explore some signs of elder abuse and the support that is available.


Signs it’s time to set boundaries with a family member

It might feel harsh to think about setting boundaries, but boundaries can improve your relationship and how you feel about each other.

Setting boundaries is a strong sign of self-respect, self-compassion, and self-advocacy.

It’s common for seniors to feel that their children are overly involved in their lives. Here are some signs that you should consider setting boundaries:

  • You feel controlled in some way
  • You feel used or like you’re being taken advantage of
  • You are exhausted by interactions with your adult child
  • You feel like your personal time and space are being invaded
  • You feel your wants and needs are not being honoured or listened to
  • You feel like they are overly involved in your decisions and lifestyle choices.


How to set boundaries with your adult child

It’s important to communicate your boundaries clearly and respectfully. Here are some tips for talking to your child about your boundaries:

  1. Choose a safe, neutral space to talk, like a café
  2. Maintain a respectful tone of voice
  3. Avoid blaming or accusing
  4. Express your feelings
  5. Explain your boundaries and how you’d like to be treated
  6. Let them know that you appreciate their concern about your wellbeing
  7. Remind them you love them and that boundaries can improve your relationship.


Examples of healthy boundaries

Boundaries may be financial, physical, or related to communication or caretaking.

Here are some examples of healthy boundaries to set with your adult child:

  • “I don’t need you to be with me all the time.”
  • “I’m capable of managing my own finances.”
  • “Please don’t call during dinner or after 8pm.”
  • “I’m not available for childminding every day.”
  • “Please only give me your advice when I ask for it.”
  • “I would like to have multiple Powers of Attorney.”
  • “I’m not able to financially support you as much as I used to.”
  • “I’d like us to write out our financial contributions to the household.”
  • “I want to live in my own home and I’m not ready to live in aged care yet.”
  • “Please only visit me when you give me at least one day’s notice in advance.”


Is it elder abuse?

Every family has its issues sometimes; disagreements are normal. But it’s important to be aware of signs for when the situation is becoming abusive.

Unfortunately, adult children are the most common perpetrators of elder abuse. Here are some common behaviours of elder abuse:

  • You have to ask them permission for basic things
  • They control your time and communication with others
  • They seem to hover around you when you’re with others
  • They restrict your access to your car, phone, or other independence
  • They keep you from your friends, other family members, or organisations
  • They fail to provide you with necessities like food, medical care, and air con.

It might feel scary when your own child is the one abusing you, especially if you depend on them.

Sometimes elder abuse is unintentional and can stem from their own issues. However, whether it’s on purpose or not, abuse is never okay.

Everyone, regardless of age, deserves to feel safe with their family. Learn more about the signs of elder abuse.


Support is available

The Senior Relationship Mediation Services (SRMS) can help you resolve family arguments, set boundaries, and find a clear path to move forward in a healthy relationship with your adult child. The SRMS is a free service which prioritises the wellbeing of the older person and helps your family establish a way forward in a safe environment.

If you’re worried you may be experiencing elder abuse, the Elder Abuse Prevention and Support Services (EAPSS) provides free counselling and safety resources for seniors. EAPSS is a free service which offers individualised support, case management, and referrals for older folks in Queensland.

You can connect with the Senior Relationship Services at 1300 063 232.


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