Hot Button # 2: Boundaries. Part 2 of 5 by Dr Dovid Lieberman
To the parents of adult children:, you must respect the boundaries. Unless it is accepted and appreciated protocol, rule number one is: call before coming over. In fact, call before you call . . . what does this mean? When you phone , don’t assume that your children are sitting around with a glass of iced tea flipping through The Jewish Press, looking at the phone, saying, “come on, phone, ring.” When they pick up, it really goes a long ways to say, “Hi, I was just thinking about you, is this a good time to speak?” Or “I had something I wanted your opinion on—when is a good time for us to get together?”
When you start off like this, it makes your child or child-in-law feel good about picking up the phone knowing that it’s you. Rather than looking at the caller ID, and thinking, I don’t have enough time right now and I won’t be able to get off the phone without hurt feelings. So when your child knows that he can exit the conversation quickly and gracefully without a problem, and without feeling guilty, he’ll pick up more often, and you’ll have healthier and more enjoyable conversations. Indeed, he’ll also be able to gently and honestly say, ‘You know what, I can’t speak right now, would it be OK. if I called you back in 15 minutes,’ or 20 minutes, or half an hour, or in ten years.” But at least you get an truthful answer.
Certainly, when you get a machine, let’s not leave a guilt-ridden message: ‘OK., I see you’re not home, I’m assuming you’re not home – why else wouldn’t you pick up? I just happen to have gone by your house earlier, and I saw all four cars in the driveway. Maybe you’re having a party, I don’t know. OK . . . it’s me . . .are you there? I haven’t heard from you in awhile . . .”
Even though the obligation of respect falls more squarely in the direction of the child to the parent, when the parent gives back that respect, the child is much more apt and eager to reciprocate.
And to the adult child or child-in-law, your parent and in-law are coming from a good, if not always healthy place. Recognize that they only want to have a relationship with you, and to be a part of your lives. Help them to feel relevant.