Setting Boundaries with Adult Children

An increasing number of young people are living at home into adulthood for a variety of reasons, including video game addiction. For those whose gameplay has moved from a fun activity to an unhealthy obsession, there’s little time for anything else.

As experts in gaming addiction, we’ve seen the anger, frustration, and resentment experienced by parents and gamers when dealing with it. In this article, we share tips on how to set healthy boundaries with adult children to improve the family dynamic at home.

Typical questions from concerned parents

At Game Quitters, our Facebook parent support group enables concerned loved ones to seek advice on a range of issues, including adult children living at home who are gaming compulsively. Here are some of the typical questions we receive:

  • What are examples of boundaries with adult children that won’t cause more friction?
  • How do I stop enabling my adult children who won’t look for work?
  • What is adult-child syndrome? I think my son may have it.
  • When should you stop helping adult children who refuse to contribute financially?

What to consider when setting boundaries

family fighting

Setting boundaries with adult children should be a collaborative process where all parties can have their say. Acknowledge from the start that each of you is likely to have different needs, values, and priorities, so compromise may be required. Aim to find a middle ground with win-win boundaries for everyone.

Discuss what will happen if the boundaries are broken or ignored. Will there be consequences, or is there any flexibility? Try introducing some boundaries for an agreed amount of time, and then review which are working and which may need some adjustment.

It’s best to agree to consequences at the beginning, so later if you need to enforce them you are simply informing them that you are keeping your promise based on the agreement you had rather than trying to bring them the pain of a consequence.

8 tips for setting healthy boundaries

hands in agreement

When setting boundaries, it’s important to remember that every situation is different; you could be establishing ground rules with your own children or wondering how to set boundaries with adult stepchildren. Your approach will depend on your specific circumstances, but here are some general tips to help improve family dynamics.

1. Open communication

Healthy relationships are underpinned by open and honest communication, where all family members listen to and acknowledge other opinions. Making this a clear boundary creates a calmer and positive atmosphere in the home. Everyone knows where they stand and feels heard and valued, so there’s no room for resentment or misunderstandings.

2. Mutual respect

Another key ingredient for a happier household is mutual respect. Even if you’re exasperated by your adult child’s lifestyle of getting up late, gaming for hours, and struggling to study or hold down a job, try to avoid being negative or disapproving.

Making an effort to understand each other’s lifestyle choices and motivations is an important boundary. Over time, being kind and considerate will build trust and pave the way for potentially difficult conversations about their gaming habits.

3. Independence

As a parent, it can be tricky to know where to set the boundary between letting your adult child do things for themselves (and sometimes learning the hard way) and getting too involved. However, there is a happy medium of being supportive without enabling them.

In order to become independent, adult children need to develop life skills, and this can start at home. Setting clear boundaries so everyone has specific chores can make your life easier, while they gain experience and have something to focus on besides gaming.

4. Personal space

Although the family home is communal, everyone has the right to privacy. Understanding and respecting this need for personal space can create an easier dynamic.

So, what are appropriate boundaries that could work for your situation? They may include knocking before entering a bedroom or bathroom, using headphones when listening to music in shared areas, or not borrowing someone’s possessions without asking. An open discussion will allow everyone to have their say and feel comfortable with what’s decided.

5. Lifestyle choices

Setting boundaries with adult children may also extend to their lifestyle choices. Agree whether you’re happy for them to drink alcohol, smoke, or vape while under your roof. Do you have certain expectations about the language they use, especially in front of younger siblings? If they play video games excessively, you could impose a family curfew for electronic devices that everyone must adhere to.

6. Financial assistance

When should you stop helping adult children financially? If you funded your child through college, you probably expected them to get a job afterward. But if they spend all day gaming and rely on you to support their lifestyle, you likely want to set some boundaries. For example, you might agree to pay for food and clothing but not loot boxes or gaming subscriptions. You may also want to consider how much longer you’re prepared for ungrateful adult children to live at home without making a financial contribution, which may encourage them to look for work.

7. Family time

Adult children living at home are, of course, entitled to their independence and personal space, but they’re still part of the family. Isolating themselves in their bedroom for hours to play video games can cause strained relations with others. However, introducing certain expectations around their behavior can help create a more harmonious home. This could include eating together at weekends, joining in family celebrations, or having a weekly movie night.

8. Gaming

Setting boundaries around gaming can be challenging, especially if your adult child has video game addiction. Parents sometimes contact us on our Facebook support group, asking questions like, ‘How do you deal with a toxic grown child who gets abusive if they can’t play video games?’ or ‘How do you deal with a disrespectful grown child who refuses to do anything other than gaming?’ Our video game addiction test will establish whether their gaming meets the criteria for gaming addiction. If it does, then we have specialist resources to support your family (see below).

Need help?

If you’ve tried to set boundaries around gaming and other aspects of family life with your adult child but they refuse to get involved, we can help.

At Game Quitters, our 12-week coaching program will help your adult child build a healthier relationship with gaming while increasing their motivation, focus, and confidence. We also have a family program, to help parents establish boundaries around gaming at home. Both programs are suitable if the gamer is in denial about their unhealthy relationship with video games.

Book a Gameplan call today to find out more about our coaching programs. During the conversation, we’ll explain our tried-and tested-approach. If you’d like to book a space, and we think you’re a good fit for the program, we can get started together.

Please note that spaces are limited and we can’t accept all applicants.

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