setting boundaries with adult kids

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
setting boundaries with adult kids
Tue, 06-04-2013 - 1:35pm


I am embarking on a scary undertaking that is  to set healthy boundaries with my adult kids.  Scary because there has been a pattern of ignoring me or verbal abuse  when I say anything to express my need to be heard or not be talked to that way, etc. then there is a long period of sience until it is broken by someone.  It is time for me to stop putting up, putting out and shutting up inorder to keep the peace.  Since they have been grown up I have given them a lot of space to decide when they want contact, etc.  So, with some there has been minimal contact except when they want something, or too much verbal abuse, or just ignoring.  A general disrespect and disregard for me. For example, gifts to the grand kids are not acknowledged, the other day after we have not talk for a while ( nothing negative, just busy I presume)  without any greeting of Hi mom, how are you doing, one of these lovely adults called asked me to do something,  I knee-jerked into my Good Mom, sure honey.  Texted him the info he wanted and had been calling me several times a day to get. So, do you think there was even a "thnx Mom"  NO!   Normally i just let it go. But today I sent the exact same text again.  You know in case the first one did not get through.  I am always the one who calls at Christmas, birthdays, etc to find out if my package arrived.   So, this needs to stop.  I need to set some boundaries and have no clue how to do it.  I mean in very practical what to say ways.  So I end up not saying anything because if i do there is usually a blow up.    How to talk to people who do not really seem to care. in order to set what I will and will not put up with and lthen how to not put up with it.  I do not want to jut ignore back without saying anything first. 

After one of my daughters started getting very rude with me while making plans for a family get together at eastser and her brother just the week befreo spoke to me in an extremey condescending way and the daughter ended up making me choose wether to drive her around on a side trip whe wanted to take but hadn't planned for or have to drive alone across the state for this event I choose, to not go.  And decided that this has got to end.  Looking back I could see a long pattern of a typical cycle of ontrol and abuse with this one.  The honeymoon period, the buld up of tension with little picky things that i ignore, the push the envelope which I can not ignore but very calmly say something and the silence, then she will call all lovely and I welcome her and everything is great until the next time.  This time i said, nope we are not just going out to have a fun evening until we talke about what happend at Easter,  WEll now she won't talk to be at all and called me stubborn and wanting my own way. and alientating the family.

After the Easter incident, I sent a very heart felt letter to each of them inviting them to think about what they would like for our family and if they wanted to find ways to be closer,  There was nothing confrontive or offensive about this it was a very loving letter. It ended let me know how you feel about this. I got one text that said got your letter mom, sounds good.  We haven't talked about that yet,  with the other five, not a single acknowledgement.

First daughter, will not talk to me now.  Middle kid is in contact, whe does stay in touch with little things like thanks for the card, got your letter, etc.

I would love to hear from you specific things to say that are healthy self-respecting responses that will set healthy boundaries.  My confident in talking wto these kids is shot.  I walk on eggsshells, really even when things are pleasant. 

So for example with this son who needed me to text something and has not acknowledege it or a couple of other things I've sent lately like birthday present to his daughter, that letter from my heart, a message that I could not come to his graduation finishing a special program for work. Only contact has been will you do this for me mom.   Please let me know how to next respond to this kid.  Next time he calls or texts, I want to say something like, I'm happy to do talk to you now, do this or that for when after you acknowledge my communications of late.  OR WHAT DO I SAY.  I feel like I let myself down  by just knee jerking sure, when there wa not even any minimal greeting to me the other day and especially when there was no acknowledgement of me doing that for him.  It is relly a little thing but a pattern. It is not an isolated incident.  

Myattempts at even engaging in a normal pleasant conversation is one-sided.  They may initiated something i say thank you then maybe aska conversational type of questions adn then there is no anser.  Because they live so far away a lot of our contacts are through phone callse or emilas, texting, 

In the last ten years I have longed for communication regarding how will we do holidays.  Or say, lets get together for a holiday , no answer and then later find out they were communicating with each other and got together.  I was out of the loop.  This Christmas I will make my own plans, not put them first and end up alone and if they do invite me I will have other plans.  That is how is ends up too.  So no matter what i end up not going to a lot of family events.  And get blamed.

I want to make it very clear, I am NOT trying to continue parenting my kids, i accept they are grown up have and have their lives, I do not need to be front and center.  I have my own very full life and am building a business  which sometimes does make it difficult to travel long distances.  I live on a small Social SEcurity (because I was a single stay at home mom) and did a lot of free lance to support us)  But if it is not me traveling there, well I would not see any of them because they travel every where except here. I send gifts to them, I get few once in a while.  

I am ready to let them go if they don't really care.  If I have a realtaion ship with any adult, including my kids, it needs to be respectful and reciprical.  NOt as in tit for tat but not all one sided either. I am tired of walking on eggshellls, not ever knowing where I stand, 

It is so difficult to know what to say to set the boundary.   Thank you for your help.