Setting Boundaries: Conversation

There are so many things I want to say…when is it right to speak?

She once wanted my advice, now I feel shut out. What can I do?

He wants to tell me all the dirty laundry about his wife and I am uncomfortable with that. What can I say?

How do I start the HARD conversation?

She is on the road she can’t return from. How can I tell her?

She is grieving and I want to help…but how do I start?

He is asking about something that happened when he was young, but we were different people then. I have apologized. Am I required to relive all that so he can “get it off his chest?”

Setting boundaries concerning conversations must happen when your children become adults.

When they were little we had hard and fast rules on words.

Mom, Scott called me stup-I-D, and told me to SHUT U-P, ” my five-year old Terah spelled out. NEVER would she say STUPID or SHUT UP! So, she had to spell the last few letters. Yep, words had impact. There were definitely off limit words.

How about you? Could they say, “I hate you!” Where were the limits to what your kids could say when they were young? Do you still have limits on their speech now as adults? Are the boundaries spoken or unspoken?

Avoiding hard conversations tells your adult child, “You don’t mean enough to me for me to be uncomfortable. My comfort is more important than your growth.” That is NOT the message we want to send.

Start, and hang in there for, the conversations that MUST happen with your adult children.

Letting your child know that you are embarking on a topic that might be uncomfortable validates their thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

Recently I had a concern about the health and development of one of our granddaughters. I told Nikki ahead of time I wanted to talk about her baby’s development. I listened as my granddaughter’s mom attempted to blow off what might or might not have been a health concern.

“Can I say something about this or do you want me to mind my own business?” I asked.

“I want you to tell me what you think I should do.”

I suggested she take the baby to the doctor, which she did. Yep, I was dead wrong–nothing whatsoever was wrong with the baby. Am I sorry I stepped out ? Not at all. Because a few weeks later that conversation was the case-in-point in another conversation we were having. Nikki was talking about how hard it is to give or receive parenting advice. she knew I wouldn’t shy away from parenting advice just because I had over reacted before. “I know that if I was doing something wrong with my kids you would tell me! And I would listen,” she assured me.

Once one of our adult kids and her significant other insinuated that we had lied about something. Drop the mic. Nope. Over the line. “Are you saying you think I lied to you? Because that wouldn’t be OK, ” my husband asked. Don’t be afraid to change the tone of the conversation. The worst boundary we can have with our adult children is an invisible boundary. Make sure the lines are clear. When one of your adult children steps over, don’t yell, become angry, or get offended. Simply restate the boundary in clear nonnegotiable terms.

Always be the adult in the conversation. No matter how uncomfortable you become stay calm and keep ASKING QUESTIONS. Get crystal clear on what the challenge is and what your options are in the situation.

A friend of mine asks her Adult Child, “Are you just venting or do you want us to work this out?” I like that. Our children DO need space to vent–but we do not have to be a whipping post taking body blows to fill their need.

What ARE your clear boundaries in talking with your adult children? How have you communicated that you want to be open and honest–but not abused?

Do you know what subjects are off limits in talking to your adult children?

Have you approached your adult children with difficult topics? What has worked and what hasn’t?

I would love to hear from you!

Author: Dr. Johnnie K. Seago

Johnnie Seago is a national conference speaker who is passionate about building leadership in families. As the mother to eight adult children, she desires families to learn to connect and communicate to build a community of support. She extends her leadership and team building experience to schools, businesses, and civic groups. Johnnie’s messages equip leaders to: Find their strength in the design God used to create them Find their purpose for which God created them Partner with others for support in reaching goals Commit to the dreams God has placed on their heart Become accountable for their success as leaders Johnnie’s ministry to families includes: Helping families transition from childhood to adulthood Teaching parents to communicate with their adult children Working through difficult situations as teens become adults Providing resources and ideas for productive grand-parenting Johnnie and her husband, Ted has been married for 40 years. They live in the suburbs of Houston, Texas on a lake where they enjoy boating and water sports and the occasional day of floating and reading.

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