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What are the proper boundaries between parents and children? There are general rules and then there are specifics that are unique to each family. The general rules pertain to the origins of the family. The couple is the foundation of the family and their marital relationship is therefore the primary one. Even as the family grows, with children or stepchildren, the couple needs to set aside time and energy for themselves. This is easier said than done. Many spouses make an appointment with each other (!) in order to have private time together that is separate from their responsibilities as parents.

The second relationship that occurs in the family is that between parents and a child. Obviously the nature of the relationship depends on the age(s) of the child(ren). Yet this relationship does not in any way supersede the first; the couple remains a separate entity. There are several consequences to this structure:

  1. No matter how close the parents wish to be with their child, they need to maintain a certain boundary between their adult world and the child's world.

  2. The child needs to have his or her own private space, no matter how small, to engage in play, alone or with friends.

  3. The parents are most effective when they work together as a team when responding to a child, even if they disagree in private.

Many boundaries have been broken in recent years, and children are exposed to a lot of information at a very early age. Therefore, when we talk to children about adult matters we must be aware of a child's developmental as well as chronological age. For example: Is the topic appropriate? If it is, how much should we say? These are the specifics that are unique to each family.

The best way to judge is not by society's standards but by the child. If you notice that your young child is either anxious or obsessively curious about adult matters, then it's time to limit that child's exposure. Encourage the child to engage in more peer-oriented activities and play. There's plenty of time to grow up.

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