Overprotective parents usually have the best intentions but implement them in a way that suppresses your autonomy. This is especially true when you begin to explore relationships, as you gradually exert your independence from your parents and interdependence with someone else. If you have a boyfriend, you may fear that judgment and criticism from overprotective parents will erode your confidence in your relationship and in yourself. Telling your parents that you have a boyfriend should be accomplished with particular attention to enforcing healthy emotional and even physical boundaries.
It is a good idea to prepare in advance for a confrontation by identifying your parents' potential concerns about your relationship. This approach can reduce the risk that a discussion will become a volatile argument with your parents. Speak with other family members if possible to get their points of view on objections your parents may have about your boyfriend.
Choose a private place with no distractions to have a discussion with your parents. You will want a place that feels comfortable, whether it is your own home or a local restaurant. Avoid bringing your boyfriend and focus your efforts on keeping conflict to a minimum.
Communicate to your parents the fact that you have a boyfriend. Communicating in an effective manner, explains licensed psychologist Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D., in the online publication "Simple Keys to Effective Communication," is a means of making a statement that is clear verbally and nonverbally. Stick to facts and expect some resistance from your parents initially. Face your parents, maintain eye contact and let them know you have a boyfriend in a calm voice. Keep in mind that overprotective parents have a tendency to parent in a manner that is not age-appropriate, even if it is well-intentioned.
Implement skills of active listening to hear your parents' concerns. Avoid presuming that you know how your parents will react and, instead, allow them to respond to your statement. Clarify and paraphrase your parents' responses to ensure you have a clear understanding of their concerns. Compare your expectations of your parents' responses with reality. If these are similar, you have a clear understanding of what steps you need to take to establish boundaries and assert autonomy as an adult.
Assert your independence by establishing and enforcing boundaries with your parents. Because overprotective parenting can lead to a lack of clear boundaries, you may feel compelled to consult your parents for decisions you should be making independently. Let your parents know that, although you appreciate their concerns, you are an adult. Enforcing boundaries can be accomplished by limiting contact and setting consequences for encroachment by your parents, such as declining an invitation to dinner if your mother has become insistent that you "must talk" about your relationship.
- How To Guide: How To Deal With Overprotective Parents
- Huffington Post: 3 Mistakes 'Helicopter Parents' Make That Prevent Their Children From Growing Up; Michael S. Broder, Ph.D.
- IPFW: Setting Boundaries with Difficult People
- Psychology Today: Simple Keys to Effective Communication; Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D.
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