I am writing a book about CODOPs (adult children of difficult older parents) and my work with them. It will present my package of 30 tools that help CODOPs thrive during this challenging chapter in their life. The thirty are arranged in this order:
The skill of establishing and enforcing boundaries is a powerful and widely useful one. Fundamentally, a boundary is a rule. It is a rule about what kind of contact or access one person will allow another person to have with or to them. Every adult has a fundamental right and duty to establish and enforce their own boundaries as they choose.
The rule of a given boundary might pertain to time, as in, “Please don’t call me after 9:00 p.m.” The rule might pertain to space, as with an airport security perimeter, or, closer to home, “If my door is closed, please knock and wait for me to open it before you come into my room.” The rule might pertain to visual access, as in, “I don’t like to be seen unless I am fully dressed and have my makeup on.” The rule might pertain to knowledge, as in, “How much money I have, or how much I paid for this ring, or what my will says, is none of your business.” It might have to do with the right to comment on one’s behavior or character, etc.
Difficult people are notorious for violating the personal boundaries of others. If you are a CODOP, perhaps you have experienced something like, “You know, I think you’re putting on some weight. I hope you’re doing something about it. You’ll never find a husband that way. You never did have any self-control.”
Boundaries should be communicated with written or spoken words, and must be given reality by imposing negative or unpleasant consequences when the rule is violated. The consequence need only be mild and gentle as the rule is being learned, but must be more substantial or distressing if rule violations continue or grow. Discussion of exactly how a CODOP can get better at establishing and enforcing their personal boundaries in relation to their difficult relative is often among the most dramatically useful components of their consultations with me. The actual steps involve, first, assertively speaking up and stating the rule. The rule tells the world what we will and will not do, and what we will and will not let others do with us, near us, or to us. The second step is to consistently respond behaviorally in a way that gives our words real meaning.
CODOPs are adults, but they often do not fully grasp that they have complete freedom to fashion their boundaries as they please. Each of their boundaries should be open, closed, or semi-porous, according to rules that the CODOP him- or herself alone controls! The journey we make through these decisions is invariably liberating and empowering for the CODOP, and highly gratifying for me to observe.
To learn more about establishing and enforcing your boundaries, please give me a call. We’ll talk about helping you move forward.
“My passion is ensuring that every adult is mentally ready to succeed in all transitions that comprise the adult years. The meaning in my life comes from helping my patients see themselves, their situation, their future, and the entire world with new eyes and a newly courageous attitude.
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