top of page

Thanks for submitting!

Get content like this and opportunities for connection with like-minded souls.

Join the community

How to Set Boundaries with Parents

If you find yourself reading this, chances are good that you've realized your relationship with one or both of your parents feels draining, one-sided, or even toxic.

Perhaps you find yourself getting smaller in their presence, slipping into a role—a past version of yourself—that no longer fits. Maybe their unsolicited opinions, criticism, and demands leave you resentful, anxious, and worn down.

First things first: Let's acknowledge how difficult it can be to even consider setting boundaries with parents as an adult. We're conditioned from birth to defer to their authority and do whatever it takes to make them comfortable, often at the expense of our own needs. This is especially true for AFABs and those raised in dysfunctional homes—where rigid hierarchy, emotional immaturity, and control were the norm.

But here's the transformative truth: You're an adult now with every right to decide what you will and will not tolerate in your relationships—even with family. Clear boundaries are essential components of self-care and healthy relationships. They teach others how to treat you, and, in doing so, allow your most authentic self to emerge.

So how do you begin establishing better boundaries with your parents?

First, get clear on your needs and non-negotiables.

Spend time reflecting on your relationships with your parents and identifying dynamics that drain or harm you. Journaling can help you pinpoint those issues.

For example, does your mother routinely criticize your appearance or your choices? Does your father disregard your parenting style or schedule? Do guilt trips leave you feeling manipulated and resentful?

Translate those insights into rules you'd like to establish for these relationships. Perhaps you need advance notice before visits, freedom from comments on your appearance, consistently respectful communication, or the right to dictate how your child will be cared for in your parents' home.

As you begin to define these non-negotiables, notice how your body responds. Setting boundaries should bring a sense of lightness and peace, even if some discomfort arises as well.

Next, communicate your boundaries with clarity and kindness.

With your needs and limits defined, share them kindly—but directly—with your parents at a time when all of you are likely to remain calm and focused. Avoid placing blame or rehashing the past. Keep the focus on what you need and how you plan to meet those needs moving forward.

Remember that boundaries are about you and how you will protect yourself, not about controlling someone else's behavior. Use "I" statements to own your experience rather than attacking them for their actions.

For instance: "I feel stressed when you show up unannounced. I need a call first so I can plan and enjoy our visit." or "I know you like to talk about politics, but I'm not comfortable with those conversations. Let's find other things to talk about."

Be prepared for some defensiveness or push-back initially. Stay calm and remember that you don't need them agree—you are simply informing them of your intentions to care for yourself better moving forward. You can acknowledge their feelings without backpedaling. "I know this is new for us, and I understand that it might be difficult to hear. This is what I need to keep our relationship healthy."

Reinforce your boundaries with action, not just words.

Establishing a boundary is one thing, but holding that boundary is where the real work lies. Expect your parents to test your limits now and then as they adjust to your new relationship rules.

If a parent makes a critical remark, for example, calmly restate your boundary and redirect the conversation.

"Remember? Those kinds of remarks don't work for me anymore. Let's talk about something else."

If they arrive unannounced, politely reschedule the visit for a time that works for you. If a conversation veers into uncomfortable territory, change the subject or remove yourself—leaving the room or ending the call if necessary. It's critical that you respond to boundary violations calmly and consistently, from a grounded place versus an activated one.

Remember, you can't control others' behavior, only your responses. Keep your actions anchored in your values.

Gently release feelings of guilt as you embrace healthy self-advocacy.

Boundaries often trigger guilt for those conditioned to prioritize others' comfort. Breathe through the discomfort of disappointing your parents and work to ground yourself in the truth that your needs do, in fact, matter. Honoring them is an act of self-love and respect for your most cherished relationships, not selfishness.

Surround yourself with supportive voices—friends, a loving partner, a good therapist or coach—who can validate your experience and reinforce your right to healthy limits. Notice how much lighter and freer you begin to feel as you consistently practice self-advocacy, even when the process is messy.

When you stop contorting yourself to maintain dysfunctional relationship dynamics, you create space for deeper and more authentic connection—with both your parents and yourself. You discover that your worth is innate, not earned through compliance. You expand your capacity for joy, contentment, and authenticity.

Trust your truth. Your peace is worth the effort.

Want to take a deeper dive? Get your free copy of Your Guide to Better Boundaries.


Photo of Kelly Judd, life coach for women, a white woman with dark hair and large tortoiseshell glasses, slightly smiling at the camera

Hi, I'm Kelly. 👋 I help you make hard decisions and do hard things. Like you, I spent decades putting others' needs before my own. After almost 20 years of leadership roles and a lifetime’s worth of plot twists in my personal life, I made the empowering decision to seek greater meaning and purpose in my work, helping others to reconnect with their authentic selves and discover the joy, peace, and clarity that comes with finally identifying and prioritizing your own needs.


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page