Picture this: you’re in your room, reading about your favorite boyband crushes, when your parents barge in without warning. “Mom! Dad!,” you yell, exasperated. They give you an upset look, so you say “please knock before entering!” When your parents are gone, you whip out your phone to text a friend: “ugh, I can’t stand my mom and dad when they barge in. I need my privacy, too!” And you’re right.
All humans require a certain degree of privacy and alone time in the day. However, many parents don’t see it that way, and may insist on entering your room without warning.
In this article, we’ll explore ways to set healthy boundaries with your parents – especially if they don’t understand how to give you space. We’ll also talk about the awkwardness of living with your parents as an adult, and all the struggles that come with it!
Are you ready to learn more? Let’s dive right in!
Why Can’t My Parents Give Me Space?
As a general rule, most parents mean well. However, some of them may fail to give their child adequate personal space. Here are some potential reasons why.
They don’t want anyone to hurt you, and feel like their constant involvement in your life is the solution. If so, you might notice your parents keeping tabs on your friends and their actions, or monitoring your online activity.
They don’t believe children need personal space, unlike adults. If so, you may need to have a conversation about it with them. Teenagers in particular may need plenty of space, as would an adult “child” living with their parents. Sadly, many parents fail to acknowledge their children as developing (or fully developed) adults if they’re living in the same house!
Their parents didn’t allow them space as children, so they’re trying to recreate a similar situation with you. Remember, parenting doesn’t come with a manual. So, your parents may replicate their parents’ footsteps simply because that’s what they learned as children. Again, you’ll need to address this situation yourself if you’re struggling with a “helicopter” parent.
While their intentions may be positive, constantly being hovered over typically feels extremely off-putting. So, if your parents do this, you may have developed negative feelings towards them and be desperate for some independence!
However, while it’s normal to feel annoyed by parents who constantly monitor your activity, it’s important to acknowledge their challenges and fears, too. You must try being gentle with them when expressing your concerns. This is far better than impulsively yelling “I hate my mom and dad!” if they ever enter without knocking.
That being said, it’s equally important to take note of the discomfort your parents’ behavior may be causing you…even if you sometimes feel like a bad child for it.
Am I a Bad Son or Daughter if I Can’t Stand My Mom?
Guilt is a remarkably powerful emotion. All healthy people experience it from time to time.
Guilty feelings help regulate our behavior. For example, we may feel guilty about something and then question our actions to understand where the guilt is stemming from. If we find the pain point, we’ll try fixing it in an attempt to overcome our guilty emotions.
Similarly, wanting to love and respect our parents is part of every human’s emotional experience.
However, parents are human, too! And all humans—your parents included—make mistakes sometimes. As a result, we may get annoyed with our parents’ mistakes from time to time…and feel guilty about it later.
So, if you’re currently experiencing both negative feelings towards your parents and guilt for it, know that you’re not alone. Many children, at some point, have unintentionally said mean things like “I can’t stand my mom” or “I wish I had a different dad.”
Experiencing negative feelings towards your guardians doesn’t necessarily make you a “bad” child. However, if you explicitly lash out at them and intentionally hurt your parents with your actions, you should reconsider your behavior.
Being a parent isn’t easy, and mastering the skill set it demands can take time.
Understanding that your parents’ may act harshly without meaning to offend you can help you overcome feelings of hurt.
This ties in with viewing your guardians in a human light—as individuals who are still growing, still making mistakes, and still learning from them.
Setting Boundaries with Parents
Traditionally speaking, it’s children who are supposed to learn from their parents. However, what most people don’t realize is that parents can learn new things from their kids, too.
While age and experience certainly do give parents an edge, we’re all still human, and hence imperfect. There’s always room to grow—for both children and parents.
All people need space to develop independently. But if your parents aren’t allowing you this space, you’ll need to start a conversation with them about boundary-setting. This is a far better strategy than whining “I can’t stand my mom” and not addressing the root problem.
Start by asking yourself why you need space, and making a mental list of your reasons. Next, find a good time to discuss the issue with your parents. First, ask them why they find it important to enter your room without knocking. Learning about their reasons can help you understand their perspective, and address the situation accordingly.
Then, share your perspective. This is a good time to bring up the reasons you made a mental note of earlier. Don’t leave anything out; being direct is often the best approach. However, remember to be courteous. They are your parents, after all, and wouldn’t want to see you upset.
After the conversation, allow them space to process your request. They’re only human, and may need time to consider what you’ve said. Some parents may not realize you’ve grown up and need space, while others may disagree at first, but come around later.
The age gap between your parents and you won’t help, either. Different generations have different perspectives on personal space and boundary-setting.
So, give your guardians time to think about the conversation and your request. If personal space is an unfamiliar concept for them, hearing you talk about it could sound like a conversation in a foreign language to them. They’ll need time to process your words.
That being said, a small fraction of parents may harshly disagree with your request. You can try speaking with them again at a different time. But if they continue to disregard your needs, you may need to adopt a different approach.
How to Set Boundaries with a Narcissistic Parent?
Unlike most parents, narcissistic parents tend to put their feelings before their kids. While it’s definitely important for parents to set healthy emotional boundaries for their personal well being, it isn’t okay to neglect their child’s feelings or stress them out in the process. If your parents are adamant on making you do things their way, chances are they’re highly narcissistic people. This is one of the few times it’s okay to say “I can’t stand my mom or dad,” without sounding rude.
While this is a massive claim to make, it’s important for children to understand how their parents’ minds may function.
If someone is a narcissist, they’re bound to reject others’ emotional needs.
As a result, children of narcissistic parents may need to learn to set emotional boundaries independently.
You may need to assert your boundaries even if your narcissistic parents reject them. For example, they may use harsh language when you ask them for space. If so, calmly inform them that you will take the space you need, and proceed to do so.
Though challenging, try to use a calm (yet firm) tone during such conversations. It’s typically not okay to be rude to your parents, but it’s also not alright for them to disrespect your needs.
Living with Parents at 30
If you’re an adult living in your parents’ house, you’re likely struggling with personal space and boundaries. Though less common in the Western world, many Eastern traditions follow this “joint-family” system as opposed to maintaining a nuclear family. In such households, children (now adults) are typically expected to contribute to household chores and expenses. This allows them a right of passage to adulthood, and encourages respect from their parents.
So, if you can afford to, try actively contributing to the home’s expenses. Grocery and gas or electricity bills are a great place to start.
If you can’t afford to contribute financially, you can show your support by prioritizing your engagement in household chores. Do more than just clean your room; try cooking for the family or watering the plants regularly.
Such behaviors will help your parents see you as a responsible adult and subsequently treat you as one.
However, if you’re still struggling to set boundaries despite your contributions, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart with your guardians. Let your parents know how you feel about needing more personal space. Tell them exactly what you expect, and be ready to compromise if needed.
So, instead of asking for complete control over your personal activities, try setting some house rules you both agree to. For example, you can demand your parents knock before entering your room if you promise not to spend the entire evening locked in. You could try spending some quality time with them during the darker hours so they don’t feel neglected or abandoned.
That’s right! Parents can feel neglected, too, especially if you’re an adult with your own life now. So, take steps to make them feel included (like mandatory family mealtime, or the evening “time together” strategy).
And who knows, maybe you’ll gain more than just some personal space. You might benefit from spending more time, as an adult, with your parents. It could be excellent for your mental health, and help your parents feel connected to you. As a result, they may be more eager to give you the personal space you need—and knock before entering your room, of course!