Beyond the holidays
If you’ve successfully navigated the holidays, congrats! If not, don’t worry. Establishing an adult relationship with your parents requires patience, persistence, and following these tips.
1 Cut the financial cord
Relying on the first parental bank for money “puts your parents in a power position and keeps you perpetually a child,” says Taylor. “Becoming financially independent will make you feel more powerful in the relationship.” That means, stop routinely taking money from your parents. A loan when your car explodes is one thing; your life costing more than you earn and your parents making up the difference is another. The solution isn’t their money—it’s getting your finances in order.
2 Establish boundaries
Think of this as a Venn diagram. One circle lists the things your family expects (daily phone calls, veto power over boyfriends); the other has the things you are happy to do (weekly phone calls and minimal details about your love life). Behaviors that please them but won’t make you insane are in the overlap. Teresa tries to set limits upfront. “When my mom calls, I say, ‘Great to hear from you! I’m going to the gym in 20 minutes, but I’d love to talk until then,’” she says. Your boundaries may disappoint your family—but the only way to avoid that is to do everything they ever ask. Not possible.
3 Have them at your place
Hosting your relatives at your house, even just for an afternoon, shows them that, yes, you have furniture and, no, you don’t subsist solely on breakfast cereal. Be sensible about what you’re offering to host. Christmas dinner might be tough but having everyone over for cake and champagne to celebrate a birthday could be great. “Hosting my family at my apartment made them see that I’m an adult doing my own thing in my own city,” says Eileen*, 23. “I felt a shift in how my parents were treating me immediately.”
4 Learn to make some decisions on your own
“If you’re calling your mom four times a day to ask mundane questions, you need to stop,” Taylor says. There’s no time like the present to realize that the earth will not spin out of orbit if you don’t get your mom’s take on fabric softener. It’s okay to ask for advice about big life decisions, says Taylor—but your parents shouldn’t be the only source in your world. You can and should turn to your friends: developing a circle of people whose advice you trust beyond just your parents’ is key to feeling like an independent adult.
5 Accept that, to an extent, your parents will always see you as a kid
Because they will. And the best thing you can do is be gracious about it. “You have to be gentle with your parents— because they deserve it,” Teresa says. “After all, they were gentle with you when you were a screaming two-year-old...”