The “10 Rights” of Parents of Adult Children




I have seen some of my Silver Connections members struggle with putting in place boundaries with their adult children.  It can at times be difficult for them to know what is acceptable and what expectations and demands from their adult children may be crossing the line or asking too much.

Below, is “10 rights” that will contribute to the overall health and well-being of parents of adult children and a good guideline to follow to avoid hurt and fractured relationships down the road.


  1. The Right to Be Free from Abuse Some parents find themselves the victims of abuse by their children, physical as well as verbal or psychological. In all cases, the abuser’s goal is to gain or perpetuate control over another. Abuse is never acceptable. If you find yourself in an abusive situation, set limits with your child. End abusive phone conversations, refuse to give time, money, or advice until you are treated appropriately.


  1. The Right to Be Guilt-Free Parents feel accountable for what happens in their families. But when best intentions produce less-than-ideal results, guilt can easily creep in. Some mothers and fathers may be subject to manipulation by an adult child who continues to hold them responsible for his delinquent behavior. Other parents find their adult child has rewritten a seemingly normal family history. (“Of course I overdrew my bank account, I never learned to control anything on my own.”)  No good purpose is served by being haunted with guilt forever. If your child will not forgive you, or you cannot forgive yourself, get help.


  1. The Right to Peace of Mind Most empty nesters expect that, at some point, living without their children will result in increased freedom and peace of mind. But some parents discover their lives become increasingly strained when children leave home. There is no peace for a boomer parent whose adult child is struggling with issues such as substance abuse, spousal mistreatment, health or criminal activity. If you find yourself in one of these situations, “claim your peace.” That means giving yourself permission to enjoy yourself at your job, have fun with friends, continue your hobbies and take time to exercise.


  1. The Right to Have Reasonable Expectations What constitutes a reasonable expectation for an adult child? Some basic behaviors can and should be universally expected. Young adults living at home should be working or going to school, or both. They should contribute actively to the maintenance of the household. If they are working full-time, they should take sole responsibility for their personal expenses, including their cell phone bill and car insurance payments.  It is reasonable to expect that parents and their children will speak respectfully to each other. And parents’ sleep schedules should be treated with consideration.


  1. The Right to Be Imperfect Sometimes being a “good enough” parent is sufficient. A “good enough” parent recognizes his or her own strengths and limitations and, on balance, is comfortable about doing an adequate job.  Your adult children may have more empathy if you admit a degree of fallibility. And you will enjoy yourself more when you’re not worried about having to be right all the time.


  1. The Right to Decide to What to Do with Your Own Money Give financially to your children if you choose, but remember that doing so is a gift, not an obligation. Parents do not owe their children the lifestyle to which they may have become accustomed. Nor do they owe their children money for traffic violations, fines, cars, furniture, frills or even necessities.


  1. The Right to Decide What to Do with Your Time The most important gift you can give others (or yourself) is the gift of time.  Distribute that gift with care. If you are always available to babysit your grandchildren or dog-sit your child’s hound, you may be creating an expectation you will not be able to maintain. Worse, it could become one that will be upheld to your detriment. The important point is that you are in charge of your free time. You do not need an excuse to spend time doing nothing but relaxing.


  1. The Right of Selective Association It is each parent’s right to decide with whom he or she will associate. Most adult children recognize this and do not interfere with their parent’s choice of friends, business associates and romantic  partners.  However, this is a right that is not always honored. Siblings may complicate the picture. For example, one sibling may be ready to “write off” another whose lifestyle or habits conflict with those of the rest of the family. But it is the parent’s right to choose to have contact with each of his or her children.


  1. The Right to Retirement Some parents who are compelled to defer their plans for retirement have adult children who’ve been struggling financially or emotionally for years. The parental motivation is well intended: they love their children. But parents have a right to reap the benefits of a lifetime of work; no child is automatically owed a bailout. Remember: there’s no reason to believe that an adult child lacking a work ethic will suddenly change with “just one more small loan” from his mother or father.


  1. The Right to Say “No” This may be the most crucial right of all because it is a prerequisite for all other rights. Parents must be able to say “no” to stop or prevent abuse, to claim their peace, to control their finances and to manage their time. Engaging in your right to say “no” may displease your children. That does not mean you are doing something wrong; in fact, it usually means the opposite. You have chosen to be authentic, rather than compliant; real, rather than superficially agreeable.  And that’s your right.



Article Credit:   By Linda M. Herman,  FORBES



Laura Kay House, MA, is the founder and owner of Silver Connections, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Silver Connections provides numerous socializing opportunities through events and travel, personal service, quality members and connections for age 55+ (mostly Boomers!) active and single adults.