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PATHFINDER Parenting:

Tools for Raising Responsible Children
By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.
E - Establishing Healthy Boundaries with Children

 

Introduction To Establishing Boundaries with Children

When children become adolescents and young adult, parents find in their desire to have a "perfect" family that they are often in competition for control with their children to make their children think, feel and act the way the parents expect them to. This competition or "power struggle" often results in the family's health deteriorating and eventually the family members finds themselves in a vacuous relationship with deep resentments and hurts. The parents often end up resenting their older children because of the belief that after giving and giving and giving they have nothing left of themselves to keep the family alive and well. The parents lose any sense of boundaries with their children and become embroiled in their older children's lives. The children often resent their parents for the intense over control which is exercised on them. The children may choose to rebel against the intense real or perceived pressure they experience from their parents to conform to an ideal or fantasy image which their parents expect of them. The children might on the other hand learn to be helpless and become dependent on their parents "doing for them" to the point of not only expecting but demanding it be done. There is a breakdown in the boundaries in families where there is a struggle for control. Intimacy and communication failing in such families. With a breakdown of boundaries between parents and older children family life becomes tense, dysfunctional and a real struggle.


How about your family life with your adolescent children (12 to 18) and young adult children (18-35)? How well are your physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual boundaries established and maintained in your family? How successful are you in protecting and maintaining your boundaries when your children is highly intrusive and persistent? How hooked are you by your children's manipulations to lower your boundaries in the relationship? Do you use unhealthy, compulsive or addictive behaviors as a boundary to protect yourself from your trying relationships with your children? How well do you stay unhooked and detached when your children are working you over to lower your boundaries in the relationship? Does your inability to maintain healthy intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual boundaries with your children frighten you? Would you prefer to stay stuck in your unhealthy power struggles than to work on learning how to establish healthy boundaries in your family? If the answer is that you need to strengthen your boundaries with your older children to enrich or regain the health of your family then read on.

 

To maintain healthy intimacy in your family with adolescent and young adult children, you will need to first establish healthy intellectual, emotional and physical boundaries with them. With healthy boundaries established, you will be able to establish and maintain a healthy intimate, physical, emotional and "Spirit filled" relationship with your older children. First you need to identify if you have a healthy intimate relationship with your older children at this time. Consider the following description of a healthy intimate family life in which adolescent and young adult children are present.

 

Characteristics of a Healthy Intimate Family Life

The goal in an intimate family life is to feel calm, centered and focused. The intimacy needs to be safe, supportive, respectful, nonpunitive and peaceful. All family members feel taken care of, wanted, unconditionally accepted and loved just for existing and being alive in a healthy intimate family. Each family member feels part of something and not alone in such a relationship. Each family member experiences forgiving and being forgiven with little revenge or reminding of past offenses. Family members find themselves giving thanks for just being alive in this family. A healthy intimate family life has a sense of directedness with plan and order. Family members experience being free to be who they are rather than who think they need to be for each other in the family. This relationship makes family members free from the "paralysis of analysis" needing to analyze every minute detail of what goes on in it. An intimate family has its priorities in order, with people's feelings and relationships coming before things and money. A healthy intimate family life encourages each member's personal growth and supports the individuality of each family member. This relationship does not result in parents or their older children becoming emotionally, physically or intellectually dependent on one another. An intimate family encourages the spiritual growth of both children and their parents and makes room for god in the relationship as a family member and friend.

 

Use the following questions on your own or with your adolescent and/or young adult children to discuss the issue of family intimacy:
  1. Does our family life sound, look and feel like this description?
  2. What factors impede our ability to have intimate relationships in our family?
  3.  If children are not able to establish healthy intimate relationships in families, then they run the risk of not being able to establish healthy intimate relationships with others outside their families. Is this true in our family?
  4. Do we as a family fail at being emotionally and spiritually intimate, if yes, why is this so?
  5. Do we have open emotional based communication with affection in our family?
  6. How important is it to each family member to have healthy intimacy in the current family life now that the children are adolescents or young adults?
  7. What is presently preventing our family from being more intimate?
  8. What do the parents in this family need to do differently so that this family can achieve the intimacy described above?
  9. What do the children need to do differently so as to achieve the intimacy described above?
  10. What would our family look like if we all agreed to work on improving the intimacy in our family life?

If your family needs to improve its communication, most probably what keeps you and your older children from having healthy intimacy, is yours and/or your children's inability to establish and maintain healthy boundaries with one another. What you and your children need to do a LET GO workout to identify how to establish healthy intellectual, emotional and physical boundaries with each other so that you can use this skill in establishing and/or maintaining a healthy intimate family life with one another. You can also use these skills listed in relationships with your spouses, grandchildren, parents, in-laws, relatives, friends, and any one you want to establish an intimate relationship with. For the purposes of this the rest of the effort will focus on how you the parents can LET GO and establish healthy boundaries with your adolescent and young adult children.

LET GO STEP 1: LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE

The first thing you need to do is to LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE to control one another, so that you can have healthy boundaries with each other. To do this you have three substeps to accomplish to LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE.

Sub-step 1: Get ALERT to the hooks which keep your boundaries down

You first must both ALERT yourselves to what irrational messages you have about family which keep you boundary-less with your older children. You need to identify the irrational emotional hooks which prevent you from having healthy boundaries with your children. Consider these emotional hooks as examples for your ALERT work.


10 Emotional Hooks in Family Life

1. Lack of Individual Identity

2. Scarcity Principle

3. Guilt

4. Inability to Differentiate Love from Sympathy

5. Helplessness and Neediness of Children

6. Need to be Needed

7. Belief that Time will Make it Better

8. Belief that It Must be All of My Fault that there are Problems in the Family

9. Fear of Negative Outcomes for Children

10. Idealism or Fantasy Thinking

 

1. Lack of Individual Identity

Maybe you are hooked by the irrational belief that: "I am a nobody without a somebody in my life." If you are, you maintain no boundaries with your children because you are very dependent in getting your identity from being their parent. You are willing to do whatever it takes to make the relationship happen, even if you have to give up your health, money, security, identity, intelligence, spiritual beliefs, extended family, country, job, community, friends, values, honor and self-respect. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "I am a somebody, just by being who I am. I am OK just the way I am, even if my children no longer need me. My value and worth as a person is not dependent on having my children needing me. It is better for me to allow my own children to be independent and healthy than to have them dependent on me and for me or them to be sick intellectually, emotionally and/or physically. I will work diligently with my children to correct this faulty thinking which has made me too dependent on them depending on me. By being more my own person and allowing my older children to be more independent our family will flourish and grow healthier."

 

2. Scarcity Principle

Maybe you are hooked by the scarcity principle of feeling happiness: "because the current status of our family life is better than anything we have ever had before." This is a common problem in families which have faced trials and challenges in the past. The problem is that the current status of your relationship might be better than what you had in the past, but it might not really be as healthy an intimate family life as described earlier. You may be so happy with your family's current functioning that you are willing to give all of yourself intellectually, emotionally and physically with no regard for what you need to retain for yourself so that you do not lose your identity in this relationship. You may be in a recovery program like AA, Alanon, NA, CODA, ACOA etc. You may be in a Bible Study Group or some other form of spiritual renewal self-help group.You may have a support system and a plan of recovery for personal and spiritual growth. You may find that in your family life you have no time to do the "recovery or growth activities" of: maintaining contact with your support system, going to 12 Step or other group meetings, or reading recovery literature or scriptures. You may find it hard to maintain your new behavioral and emotional commitment to personal and spiritual growth in your family. If this is true, then your family is not supportive of your recovery for personal and spiritual growth and is not healthy for you no matter how happy you are in it. If in your family life you have no alone time to spend with your spouse, other children, extended family or friends then it is not healthy no matter how happy you are in it. If in your family life you have no time, energy or resources to put into your career, education or current job then it is not healthy for you no matter how happy you are in it. If in your family life you are finding it difficult to maintain your own spirituality and connection with your Higher Power then it is not healthy no matter how happy you feel in it. A family which requires that you sacrifice all of you for the sake of the happiness you feel, in it, is not a healthy intimate family. A healthy intimate family life allows you to make time, space and allowance for you to focus on yourself, your own needs, your spouse, each of your children individually, your extended family, your friends, your recovery program, your support system, your career, your education, your spiritual beliefs and your personal integrity, individuality and identity. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "I will focus on my needs, my identity, my individuality and my personal integrity in my family life. I will set aside my time, resources and energy to give to my children, my family, my friends, my support system, my recovery program, my spirituality, my career, my education and my community involvement while maintaining a healthy intimate family life with my children. I will insist that I have the time, resources and energy to focus on all aspects of my life in my family life. I will not become complacent in my family just because there are no conflicts or crisis in it at the time. I will work with my children to insure that the health of our family is ever growing and increasing."

 

3. Guilt

Maybe you are hooked by irrational guilt that you must think, feel and act in ways to insure that your family life is preserved, secured and nurtured no matter what personal expense it takes out of you. You feel guilty if the your children are not succeeding or thriving without your personal resources, energy, money, time and effort going in to making such success happen. You have a problem of feeling over-responsible for the welfare of your children and cannot allow to accept personal responsibility to make choices and live with the consequences of these choices. This irrational guilt is a driving motivation to keep you tearing down your boundaries so that you will always be available to your children at any time, in any place for whatever reason your children "need" you. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "My children and I are responsible for accepting personal responsibility for our own lives and to accept the consequences for the choices we make in taking care of our own lives. I am not responsible for the outcomes which result from the choices and decisions which my children make. My children and I are free to make our own decisions with no one forcing us to make bad ones which will result in negative consequences to ourselves if they should occur."

 

4. Inability to Differentiate Love from Sympathy

Maybe you are hooked by the inability to differentiate the difference between love and sympathy or compassion for your children. You find yourself feeling sorry for your children and the warm feelings which this generates makes you think that you are in love. The bigger the problems your children have, the bigger the "love" seems to you. Because the problems can get bigger and more complex, they succeed in hooking you to lower your boundaries so that you begin to give more and more of yourself to your "pitiable" children out of the "love" you feel. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "It is OK to have sympathy and compassion for my children, but that does not mean that I have to sacrifice my life to "save" or "rescue" them. Sympathy and compassion are emotions I know well and I will work hard to differentiate them from what love is. When I feel sympathy and compassion for my children, I will remind myself that it is not the same as loving them. The ability to feel sympathy and compassion for another human being is a nice quality of mine and I will be sure to use it in a healthy and non-emotionally hooked way in the future in my family."

 

5. Helplessness and Neediness of Children

Maybe you get hooked by the neediness and helplessness of your children. You find yourself hooked when your children get into self-pity, "poor me" and "how tough life has been." You find yourself weak when your children demonstrate an inability to solve personal problems. You find yourself wanting to teach and instruct, when your children demonstrate or admit ignorance of how to solve problems. You find yourself hooked by verbal and non-verbal cues which cry out to you to "help" your children even though they have the competence to solve the problems on their own. You find yourself feeling warmth, caring and nurturing feelings which help you tear down any shred of boundaries you once had. These sad, weak, distraught, lost, confused and befuddled waifs are so needy that you lose all concept of space and time as you begin to give and give and give. It feels so good. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "No one is helpless without first learning the advantages of being helpless. Helplessness is a learned behavior which is used to manipulate me to give of my resources, energy, time, effort and money to fix. I am a good person even if I do not try to fix and take care of my children when they act helpless. I cannot establish a healthy intimate family life with my children if I am trying to fix or take care of them all of the time. I need to put more energy into fixing and taking care of myself if I find myself being hooked by my children's helplessness."

 

6. Need to be Needed

Maybe you get hooked by the sense of being depended upon or needed by your children. There is no reason to feel responsible for your children if they let you know that they are dependent upon and need you for their lives to be successful and fulfilled. This is over-dependency and is unhealthy. It is impossible to have healthy intimacy with an overdependent person because there is no give and take. Your children could be parasites sucking you dry of everything you have intellectually, emotionally and physically. You get nothing in return except the "good feelings" of doing something for your children. You get no real healthy nurturing, rather you feel the weight of your children on your shoulders, neck and back. You give and give of yourself to address the needs of your children and you have nothing left to give to yourself. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "It is unhealthy for me to be so overly depended upon by my adolescent and young adult children. There is a need for me to be clear what I am willing and not willing to do for my children. There is a need for my children to become more independent from me so that I can maintain my own sense of identity, worth and personhood. It would be better for me to let go of the need to be needed than to allow my children to continue to have such dependency on me. I am only responsible for taking care of myself. Human adults are responsible to accept personal responsibility for their own lives. Supporting my children intellectually, emotionally and physically where I have nothing left to give to myself is unhealthy and not required in a healthy family and I will be ALERT to when I am doing this and try to stop it immediately."

 

7. Belief that Time will Make it Better

Maybe you get hooked by the belief that: "If I give it enough time things will change to be the way I want them to be." You have waited a long time to have a healthy intimate family life, you rationalize: "Don't give up on it too soon." Since you are not sure how to have one or how one feels, you rationalize that maybe what the family needs is more time to become more healthy and intimate. You find yourself giving more and more of yourself and waiting longer and longer for something good to happen and yet things never get better. You find that your wait goes from being counted by days, weeks or months to years. Time passes and things really never get better. What keeps hooking you are those fleeting moments when the family life approximates what you would like it to be. These fleeting moments feel like centuries and they are sufficient to keep you holding on. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "It is unhealthy for me to sacrifice large portions of my life, invested in a family life which is not going anywhere. It is unhealthy for me to hold on to the belief that things will change if they have not in one or more years. It is OK to set time limits in my family life, such as: if in 3 months or 6 months things do not get to be intimately healthier then I or all of us will need to seek professional help to work it out. It is OK to put time demands on my family life so that I do not waste away my life waiting for something which in all probability will never happen. It is not OK for me to blow out of proportion those fleeting moments in my family life which make me believe that there is anything more in it than there really is."

 

8. Belief that It Must be All of My Fault that there are Problems in the Family

Maybe you get hooked by the belief that: "If I change myself more things will change to become more like I want them to be in our family life." You rationalize that maybe the reason things are not getting healthier and more intimate is because you need to change more to be the person your children want you to be. You feel blamed and pointed out by your children as the reason why things are not healthier or more intimate in your family. You find yourself having to defend yourself from attack from your children for "not being good enough" or "doing enough" to make the family's relationships work. You find yourself with a mounting list of expectations, duties or responsibilities, given you by your children, which must be accomplished if the family is ever to become what you want it to be. You find yourself needing to change the ways you think, feel, act, dress, talk, look, eat, work, cook, entertain, have fun, socialize, etc before you will be "good enough" for your family life with your older children to work. You find that you will have to basically give up "who you are" for "who your children want you to be" if your family life is ever to work. You find yourself hooked by the challenge to change and you find yourself working harder and harder to effect the change. What keeps you hooked is the affirmation and reinforcement you get from your children when you effect a small change. The only problem is that there is always something else identified which needs to be changed after the last change has been accomplished. You are in a never ending loop of needing to change and unfortunately there never seems to be an end to it. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries for this hook is: "I have to be real to myself and be the person I am rather than to be the person my children want me to be. It is not healthy for me to give up my personhood and identity to please my children just to maintain our family. I have a right to my own tastes, likes and dislikes, personal style, beliefs, values, attitudes etc. I am in control of my own thinking, feelings and actions. I will not allow my children to take control of my basic rights."

 

9. Fear of Negative Outcomes for Children

Maybe you get hooked by the fear of the possible negative future outcome if you are not deeply involved in taking care of and fixing your children. You may be aware of the hooks which keep you boundary-less with your children. Yet you are afraid to LET GO of the control you have with your children for fear something very negative might happen to them. Maybe you fear that your children would go to jail, become: homeless, hungry, jobless, poor, lonely, scared, or worse yet dead if you do not continue to fix and take care of their needs. If your children are married you might fear they might get a divorce, keep their kids away from you, turn their kids against you if you did not rescue, help out or take care of their current "pressing need." This fear of the possible negative future outcomes is so debilitating, that it feels better being sucked dry intellectually, emotionally and physically than to LET GO and watch your children suffer their feared awful negative outcome. You find yourself powerless to keep from doing the healthy thing because of the intensity of this fear. You have become a prisoner in the prison of this relationship. You have become a hostage of very powerful, needy, helpless, manipulative "hostage takers." You are a possession of your children. You find yourself doing all you are asked to insure that this possible negative dreaded outcome does not happen. You are being emotionally blackmailed and may even have heard threats of suicide if you say you want to change or get out of the relationship the way it is. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "I am only responsible for my life. No one can make me responsible for my older children's life. I can choose to feel responsible for my children's life, but I cannot control or determine the outcome of that life no matter how hard I try. I am powerless to control other people, places, things and conditions. The only thing I can control is my own thinking, feeling and actions. I need to hand my children's problems and needs and the outcomes of their lives over to my Higher Power. I cannot carry my children's possible negative future outcomes on my body or I will experience failed emotional and physical health. It is OK for me to expect my children to accept personal responsibility for their own lives. It is OK to require my children to accept the consequences for their own actions, choices and decisions."

 

10. Idealism or Fantasy Thinking

Maybe you are hooked by the fantasy or ideal about how it is supposed to be. You have an ideal, dream or image in your mind of how a family is supposed to be or how it should be and you have a difficult time accepting it the way it really is. You work hard at making your family life approximate this idealized fantasy. You put a great deal of time, energy and resources into making it become a reality. Unfortunately the more you give and give, the fantasy never becomes the reality you are wishing for. The pull to make the fantasy become real is very powerful. You seem brainwashed into believing that it is possible even though all of your efforts have not made it happen, after years and years of effort on your part. You get hooked by the delusion of the fulfillment of the fantasy and live as if the fantasy has become reality. You are sometimes so out of touch with reality that you appear to be psychotic to others when you discuss your family life. They know it is not real and in some cases does not even closely approximate what you are saying. You keep pouring your resources, energy and time into an empty pit which seems to never get filled. You become obsessed into acting and looking like the fantasy is real. You get hooked into waiting for the "big pay off" down the road if you just stick with your children in their state of irresponsibility and/or over dependence. You remain loyal to the belief that it will happen one day. "Wake up and get off the fantasy train before it runs off the track!" you hear people saying but ignore their warnings and keep blindly on, in search of your quest. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "I must accept reality the way it is rather than how I want it to be. I will give my support system, in my recovery or spiritual renewal program, permission to call me on it if I am hooked into a fantasy family life and losing myself in it. I will work hard to stay reality based and keep myself from losing my objectivity and contact with the way things really are. I will make every effort to accept my children the way they are rather than how I want them to be. I am a human and subject to making mistakes and failing and I will forgive myself if I make a mistake in my efforts to establish a healthy intimate family life with my children. Once I give up the delusion that things are the way they are supposed to be, I will work with my children to try to correct the problems in our family life."

Use the tools in the Tools for Handling Control Issue (Messina, J.J., 2013) to get yourself further unhooked and detached from any unhealthy aspects of your family life. Use the tools in the Tools for Personal Growth (Messina, J.J., 2013) to get yourself more rational in the face of the hooks you experience in family and your relationships with others.

Sub-step 2: Do ANGER Workouts on the lack of healthy boundaries with your children

Once you have ALERTED yourself to the emotional hooks in your family life with your older children which keep your boundaries weak, then you need to do ANGER work about how angry you are that there are these hooks in your family which are so strong and powerful. You need to get your anger out about: "Why can't my family life be like the ideal fantasy, I always dreamed it would be." "How hard it is to establish and maintain a good family." "It takes so much work to keep our family healthy." You need to do your anger work about how unfair it is that nothing in life comes easy and how you have to work so hard to be healthy and ALERT to all of the hooks which keep you unhealthy with your older children.. To do your ANGER work you must be sure to address the different faces of anger takes due to the lack of boundaries in your family life.

 

Anger Issues Resulting from a Lack of Boundaries in a Family


1. Becoming Invisible in the Family

As a result of getting hooked in your family life and having no boundaries in it, you might become invisible. This comes from your needs being ignored, your being socially isolated and being made to deal with the family life on your own, alone and away from your extended family, friends and support system. You need to get out your anger over your rights being ignored. You need to get your anger out over your fear of not speaking up lest you "cause waves" or start a conflict with your older children. You need to get your anger out that you are not seen, heard or considered in your relationship with your children. You need to get your anger out that you stopped thinking, feeling and acting on your own lest you were seen by your children and problems resulted from your independence of action.

 

2. Silent Withdrawal from Your Children

As a result of getting hooked in your family life and having no boundaries in it, you might experience silent withdrawal. This withdrawal involves not allowing yourself to feel feelings of anger or disappointment because things are not going well between you and your older children. You might even be driven to compulsive behaviors to medicate your negative feelings. You might become more compulsive in your drinking, drugging, gambling, overeating or other addictive behaviors (eg.: shopping, credit car use, risk taking etc.). This act of holding in your anger, about your power struggles with your older children and their not giving you what you wanted or expected, just exacerbates your anger. Your keeping silent to maintain a "Peace at any price" stance to avoid conflict with your children just makes your anger greater and more intense. If you continue to hold your anger in, you may became more and more depressed which feeds the need to self-medicate and withdraw more from your children. By this action you may also pull away from your spouse, extended family, friends, support networks and life in general. You need to get your anger out about how hurt you are that your family life is not what you wanted. You need to get your anger out about how you have given and given to your children until you have no more to give. You need to get your anger out about how you have lost yourself in the relationship with your children resulting in you have no boundaries between you and them. If you verbalize your anger in healthy ways you will become a better problem solver in your relationship with them.. This will help you and your older children to creatively address and confront the issues pulling you both apart.

 

3. Rage over Your Pain and Hurt in Your Family

As a result of getting hooked in your family life and having no boundaries in it, you might experience rage which comes as an over-reaction to your hurt and pain. You might finally realize that you have been conned and duped by your children into an unhealthy relationship and get so angry that you fly off into rages. You need to get your anger out in healthy ways so that you do not feel guilt after these rages. The guilt will only hook you back into the unhealthy relationship. You need to get this rage and anger out in healthy ways so that it does not turn into anger-in which results in your becoming depressed which feeds your compulsive self-medicating behaviors of drinking, drugging, gambling, overeating etc. You need to get this anger and rage out so that it does not turn into self-anger and self-destructive rage. You need to get this anger out so that you can forgive yourself for "being so stupid" or "being so naive" that you could have been "conned and manipulated" so by your children. You need to get your anger and rage out in a healthy way so that you do not act "crazy" with your children which then can be used against you later. You need to get this anger and rage out of your system in healthy ways so that you can be "squeaky clean" with your children as you confront the problems in your relationship with them. 

 

4. Need to Run Away

As a result of getting hooked in your family life and having no boundaries in it, you might want to run away. You might find yourself wanting to get away from your older children and create a "geographic change." This is thinking that in a different place you can work out your family issues in a better way "with the kids not so close" to you.. You need to recognize that this is just holding in your anger and things won't be any different in a new place away from the kids. You might be so wrapped up in your fantasy and ideals, of how family is supposed to be, that you run away without replacing the unhealthy fantasy or ideal. You will still feel the pain and hurt of unrealized fantasy and ideals in your new "hide out." Your new effort at piecing a new family life together may more closely approximate what "it is supposed to be" and yet it is not. Running away from problems is only to run right back into them in a different format, place or time. You need to get your anger out about your current family problems so that you do not repeat the same pattern in the future. You need to rid yourself of all of the negative feelings and emotions which come from the unhealthy aspects of your family life so that you are free to experience healthier, more positive feelings in the future. You need to confront head on the anger and rage you feel about being disappointed, duped and conned in a boundary-less relationship with your older children so that you do not repeat the pattern in the future. To run away and not face it, is a guarantee of repeating the pattern in the future.

 

Use the tools in the Tools for Anger Work-Out (Messina, J.J., 2013) to get your anger out in healthy ways so that it does not become a destructive force in your family.

Sub-step 3: Do CHILD work to nurture your right to have boundaries

Once you have done your ANGER work then you need to nurture yourself with CHILD work. Focus on how you deserve not to be hooked by the pitfalls in your relationship with your adolescent and young adult children. Remind yourself that you deserve to establish healthy boundaries between you and your children to protect yourself intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically. To do this CHILD work you first need to recognize what your rights are in healthy intimate family life with older children.

 

Personal Rights in Family


1. I have the right to expect a nurturing environment in my family.

I deserve a family environment with clearly defined and enforced limits and boundaries so that I do not get lost or used up in it. I deserve to have respect and latitude to be an individual in this family so that I can retain my individuality and personhood. I deserve to have an environment with my older children, which has structure so that I know what are our mutual expectations and obligations. I deserve to have freedom within the established structure so that I am not penned in or limited from being the person who I am. I deserve to maintain open, honest and feelings based communication with my spouse, family, friends, support system and recovery colleagues, so that I can receive feedback if I am falling into a "hooked" relationship with my children, in which I am losing all sense of personal boundaries. I have the right to establish boundaries with my children which insure that the environment in my family life is nurturing to me.

 
2. I have the right to be self-nurturing in family life.

I deserve to love myself unconditionally. I deserve to take care of my own intellectual, emotional and physical needs with no need to become dependent on my children to meet these needs for me. I deserve to accept myself as a unique person who is different and separate from my children and spouse. I deserve and need to be open and honest with myself so that I am constantly in touch with my feelings and emotions so that I do not slip into fantasy or delusion about what is happening in my family. I have the need to be open to my inner voice which is the source of my instincts and intuitions so that I can hear the Alarm Bell if my family is becoming unhealthy for me. I have the right to establish boundaries with my children which insure that I have the personal resources to nurture myself in healthy ways.

 

3. I have the right to expect to be emotionally nurtured by my older children in the same ways I nurture them.

I deserve unconditional love and acceptance from my children just as they deserve my unconditional love and acceptance. I deserve to receive warmth, caring and affection from my children just as they deserve the same from me. I deserve to be accepted as the unique individual I am in this family life just like my children deserve me accepting them in their uniqueness.. I deserve good open and honest communication with my children just as they deserve the same from me. I deserve to have open and straight forward problem solving with my children so that all issues which come up can be handled in healthy, logical, emotional and physical ways. I have the right to establish boundaries with my children which insure our mutually being emotionally nurturing to one another.

 

4. I have the right to expect my children to support my healthy self-esteem.

I have a right to expect that my family life will be supportive of me so that I can grow in my self-worth, self-concept and optimism. I have a right to expect to become a more productive person in my family life. I have a right to become a better creative problem solver and experience improved coping skills in this family. I have a right to expect respect for my leadership capabilities by my older children. I have a right to expect that my self-deservedness and self-confidence will grow in my relationship with my adolescent and young adult children. I have a right to expect that my children and I will grow in altruism and personal responsibility taking in our family life. I have the right to establish boundaries with my children which are supportive to my healthy self-esteem.

 

Use these four personal rights in a family as affirmations and visualizations to nurture yourself in CHILD work to give yourself permission to establish healthy boundaries to not get hooked in unhealthy ways with your older children in the future. To read more about what you have a right to expect in your relationship with your children, read Section 1: An Overview of Self-Esteem in Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous - The SEA's Program Manual (Messina, J.J., 2013). Use the tools in Tools for Relationships (Messina, J.J., 2013) to develop goals with your older children which encourage healthy intimacy with them. Use Growing Down - Tools for Healing the Inner Children (Messina, J.J., 2013.) to give you tools to help you self-nurture yourself so that you are strong and visible in your family life and are better able to nurture yourself without the need to be needed by your children.

Once you have completed the 3 substeps of LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE about the hooks in your family life which keep your boundaries down then you are ready for the next step in the LET GO process.

 

LET GO Step 2: EXERCISE RIGHTS

Your next step you need to do is to EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS to set up your boundaries with your older children. This is essentially to say "NO" to those hooks which keep you boundary-less. You also need to identify what boundaries you want to set up so that you do not lose yourself in your relationship with our adolescent and young adult children.. To help you exercise your rights, here are some boundaries you need to establish if your family life is to be a healthy:

 

Boundaries Needed for Healthy Family Life Boundaries


1. You need to put limits on your time focused solely on the children.

You need to establish a good sense of time management so that you do not give all of your time over to the establishment and maintenance of your relationship with your older children. You will need to develop a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly schedule for your time. You will need to set aside time enough for your work, sleep, self-nurturing activities, family nurturing times, family involvement, friends involvement, support group(s), recovery work, spirituality endeavors, exercise, having fun, leisure time, vacation times, alone time and family time. You cannot afford to give away precious time to a relationship with your older children which needs to be spent in the necessary activities which insure that you are not lost or swallowed up in it. 

 

2. You need to put limits on the money you spend on your children.

You need to establish a budget for your money so that you do not spend inordinate sums of money on your adolescent and young adult children. You need to be clear that your money will not be used to rescue or save your children from fiscal irresponsibility. You need to be clear that your money will not be squandered on high risk activities such as gambling or "get rich quick" schemes. You need to be clear that you will not foot the bill to support fully adult children who are not willing to take responsibility to find a job or get a better paying job for which they are qualified. You need to set limits as to how long you will fund your adult children who are out of work before the funding is pulled. You will need to be clear that your money will not be spent to cover legal costs if your older children are purposefully involved in illegal activities. You will need to maintain a budget so that you do not over spend and get yourselves into unreasonable debt spending money on your older children.

3. You need to set limits on your external resources in your family.

You and your children need to set limits for your adolescent and young adult children, on the use of your house, car(s), or other pieces of property you own. If you own a business or have a supervisory position on your job you need to set limits on how much your children can become involved in your work. You need to set limits on how you will do in terms of chores or work load to take care of the "shared space" in your house or other property you own if the children live or use it. You need to set limits on how much your older children will have access to your extended family, friends and support system. You will need to set limits as to how involved you will allow your children to become in your individual recovery and spiritual renewal support group(s) activities.

4. You need to set limits on your internal resources in your family.

You will need to set limits on how much of your talents, skills and abilities or internal resources you are willing to expend on your adolescent and young adult children.. You need to be clear with your children how much of your internal resources you are willing to share or give away to establish or maintain you relationship with them. You need to be clear with yourself that your skills and abilities are commodities which others pay for (be it on the job or in the market place) and that you do not have to give them away for free just to keep your older children in a relationship with you. You are not required to give and give in a relationship of your talents, skills and abilities without expecting something substantial in return. You need to set limits on how much you will give before you will stop giving of yourself.

 

5. You need to set limits on your emotions in your family.

You will need to set limits on how much you will emotionally invest in your older children. You will need to recognize the emotional hooks which keep you stuck in your relationship with them. You will need to set limits on how "hooked" you will allow yourself to become. You will need to set time limits on how long you will allow a hook to go on in the relationship. You will need to develop a sense of emotional detachment so as not to get hooked and drowned in an unhealthy enmeshment with your children. You will need to develop emotional limits so that you will be able to figure out where you begin and end and where your children begin and end.

 

To assist you to develop healthy boundaries read 12: Establishing Healthy Boundaries in Growing Down-Tools for Healing the Inner Children (Messina, J.J., 2013). Once you have identified the five areas of boundaries you need for a healthy family life then you are ready to proceed to the next LET GO step. 

LET GO Step 3: TAKE STEPS

You are now ready to TAKE THE STEPS to establish healthy boundaries with your adolescent and young adult children. This involves actualizing the 5 areas of boundaries for healthy family life. You will need to do the following boundary development tasks.

 

Family Life Boundary Development Tasks


1. Establish a Calendar

You and the older children who live at home need to set up a schedule by day, week, month and year and keep to it. Be sure all the essential components: needed to have a nurturing environment, self-nurturing, mutual nurturing and self-esteem enhancement, are put in the calendar. Make sure that spending time on family enrichment is included in the calendar. Present your calendar to your children and then set up a family calendar based on the combination of the two.

 

2. Budget

Set up a budget of how you would spend the money which you bring into the family on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Make sure you are honest about your actual income and do not depend on credit as a source of income. Limit your expenditures on your older children so that you are not irresponsibly squandering your money. Once you figure out your budget then compare it with your actual expenditures over a week, month or year and then develop a final budget which meshes this reality with sound fiscal responsibility taking.

 

3. Use of External Resources

Set up a set of rules and regulations about use of your external family resources. Be clear about rules about use and misuse of them. Set up chores and work schedules to insure that all of the resources are taken care of in a responsible way. Set up limits about car ownership by older children, responsibility for personal insurance and general maintenance expenses on the car. Set limits about the use of the family house and other property after the adult children move out. Set limits on parental coverage of tuition, room, board, fees and books for post high school education. Set limits on parental coverage of costs for weddings, special events, birth of grandchildren and all expenses involved with the grandchildren. Look at T: Tracking Pathfinder Structures over the Lifespan for other ideas on limit setting on external resources with older children.

 

4. Use of Talents, Skills and Abilities

Set up a set of rules about what you will and will not do in the relationship with your talents, skills and abilities so that you will not feel raped or violated because you have squandered your internal resources on the family.

 

5. Emotional Life with Children

Identify what you are willing to do and not do with your emotional life in you relationship with your children. Identify when, where, how and why you are willing to do what you will do. Set goals for you and your older children which fairly protect each other. Develop open lines of communication so that all problems are openly discussed and creatively resolved. Learn to say "NO" over and over again until it becomes a habit and you feel no more guilt after saying it.  Use the Tools for a Relationship and the Tools for Communication (Messina, J.J., 2013), and Marriage Workout - Tools for Marital Enrichment (Messina, J.J., Advanced Development Systems Inc., Tampa, Florida, 1986), to assist you to take the steps necessary to develop healthy boundaries with your older children. Once you have TAKEN STEPS to establish boundaries then you are ready for the next step in the LET GO Process.

LET GO STEP 4: GIVE UP NEED

You now need to insure that the boundaries you establish are maintained in your family life with your adolescent and young adult children. To do this you will need to GIVE UP THE NEED to have control over your children as well as with other people, places, situations and conditions. To do this, you will need to stop doing the following control behaviors which weaken your boundaries.

 

Control Behaviors Which Weaken Boundaries


1. Need to Fix

You will need to LET GO and GIVE UP THE NEED to fix your children when you see that they are hurting or in need. If you get caught up in the compulsive need to fix, you will weaken your boundaries and become lost in trying to fix your children to the exclusion of taking care of yourself.

 

2. Need to be a Caretaker

You will need to recognize that you have a compulsive trait of needing to take care of people in need because you have a severe case of the "need to be needed" syndrome. You will need to recognize that the more you give and take care of your children, whom you perceive to be needy, the more your boundaries disappear and the less of you is left.

 

3. Unchecked Idealism

You will need to recognize that you cannot control how your children should turn out. You can only control how you think, feel and act towards your children. You cannot control the outcomes of what they will become and how they will behave. You need to accept them how they actually are right now on a day to day basis. You will need to work at tempering your idealism so that you do not exhaust yourself, after allowing all of your boundaries to collapse around you as you pursue your fantasy idealized family life with your children.

 

4. Non-acceptance of Powerlessness

You need to work at accepting that you are powerless to control and change your children as well as other people, places, things, situations and conditions. You are competing with your Higher Power if you hold to the belief that you can control and change your children. You will lose in the long run and you will be boundary-less and defenseless from the onslaught of needs of your children, whom you believe you can change and control.

 

5. Lack of Belief in a Higher Power

You will never be able to maintain your boundaries with your children if you do not have a belief in a Higher Power or God as you understand it to be. You need a Higher Power over to whom you can let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in you life. Without this resource to hand over these things to, you will be exhausted. In trying to meet your children's needs, your boundaries will be non-existent and you will be ultimately lost in the process.

 

To learn more about control issues and to develop tools to GIVE UP THE NEED to control others, read the Tools for Handling Control Issues (Messina, J.J., 2013). Once you have GIVEN UP THE NEED you are then ready for the last LET GO Step.

LET GO Step 5: ORDER LIFE

First you have done the ALERT, ANGER and CHILD work about emotional hooks in your family life with your older children. You then have gotten out your anger responses to those hooks. You have self-nurtured by recognizing your rights to have healthy boundaries. You have LIGHTENED THE PRESSURE to control your children. Then you EXERCISED YOUR RIGHT by identifying what boundaries you wanted to set up for yourself with your older children. Then you TOOK STEPS to establish the boundaries. Finally you GAVE UP THE NEED to control your children and others by recognizing the control issues which keep you boundary-less. Now you need to make a commitment to ORDER YOUR LIFE so that you will continually be on the lookout for your boundaries being violated, ignored or dropped when involved with your older children. You will need to designate as part of your boundaries, that recovery programs, spiritual renewal and personal growth efforts are an essential part of your life and all aspects of them must be respected and not altered. You will need to state that you will not allow your family life to interfere with your efforts at personal growth and recovery and that you will allow no one the power to divert you from this important project in your life.

 

You will need to ORDER YOUR LIFE to recognize that you cannot have a healthy intimate relationship with your adolescent and young adult children unless you have established and maintained your boundaries in a healthy way. You will need to be on ALERT to recognize if you are being hooked by your older children because money and material goods are the only economy exchanged with them. You will need to do ANGER work if all you have in your relationship with your older children is the money and things and lack all of the other essential components to make it intimately healthy and enriching. You will need to do CHILD work to nurture yourself to let you know that you are OK just the way you are to give you the courage to face the fact that you need to alter and address your materialistic based relationship with your older children which is not healthy or emotionally rewarding. You will need to do more LET GO work to get back on track to re-establish healthy boundaries if you relapse and allow yourself to be consumed in your family life based on money and things but not on emotional or intellectual nourishing. You will need to allow your support system to call you on it if you relapse into being boundary-less, so you can alter your family life to a more emotional and spiritual plane.

 

You will need to work at preventing relapse by working hard at your recovery program so that you have enough people in your life to "call you on it," if you begin to isolate yourself and become a hostage to your older children. You will need to work at being open to others about the need for their feedback if they see you sacrificing your internal and external resources just so that you can remain involved in the lives of your adolescent and young adult children. You will need to have support people prepared to call you on it, if you drift away from your program of recovery, growth and spiritual renewal. You will need to give permission to people to "call you on it," if they recognize that you are deteriorating in your health, happiness and energy levels because of your over enmeshment in your family life.

You will gain the health, happiness and increased energy, if you are able to deal with your relationship with your older children in healthy way are able to maintain your healthy boundaries in the process. You have much to gain by establishing healthy boundaries with your children. It is up to you to be vigilant and on guard for any relapse in maintaining healthy boundaries. Lastly you need to make a concerted effort to adopt the words of Rheinhold Neibuhr as a daily affirmation for yourself to insure you do not relapse into a boundary-less life in your family life.

Serenity Prayer

by: Rheinhold Neibuhr

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

enjoying one moment at a time,

accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

taking, this sinful world as it is,

not as I would have it.

Trusting that You will make all things right,

if I surrender to Your will.

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

AMEN

 

Pathfinder Boundary Development Scenarios Exercise

Directions: To assist you to practice setting boundaries and limits with your older children read the following scenarios and put your answers in your journal. A second way of using these scenarios is to bring them to family meetings with your older children. Read the scenario and then ask the family members how they would handle this situation if they were Pathfinder Parents? Then after you have fully discussed the family's initial reaction then proceed to read the answers at the end of this section and then have the family react to the ideal Pathfinder solutions. Remember that you do not have to fully agree with the Pathfinder solutions but if you do not, you need to insure that your response reflects respect for your boundaries and those of your children so that you can maintain a healthy intimacy with them.

 

Scenario 1:

Your 13 year old in 7th grade is not working hard in school and seems not to be doing any homework. You are ready to pull your hair out. You have gotten at least 3 scholarship warnings from school. You have begun to "police" your child. You sit for at least one to two hours a day being sure that homework is being done. You have set limitations on the use of the phone and TV until the next grading period to insure that your child does better in school. As a Pathfinder how would you handle this situation?

 

Scenario 2:

Your 15 year old daughter has been head over heels over a boy 5 years older than she is. You are fearful that they are having sex and you are afraid that she will get pregnant. You begin to screen her phone calls and threaten to ground her for "life." You have a difficult time sleeping at night for fear she is sneaking out her bedroom window. You seek help from your minister to talk her out of going out with this man. You seek out a psychiatrist to put her into a hospital in hopes that she will "see the light." You find that you are so distracted by your daughter's life that you are not able to do your usual quality work on your job. You need help. As a Pathfinder how would you handle this situation?

 

Scenario 3:

Your 14 year old son has been rebellious and disrespectful towards you, to other family members. H:e totally disregards the rules at home and school. On the other hand he lets you know that, when he is 16, he expects to have a car, which you of course will buy for him. He threatens to run away if you don't give him what he wants. He fights you incessantly. You find yourself getting angrier and angrier at him. Your patience is at its limits. You are ready to seek a foster home placement for him since life with him is so horrible. As a Pathfinder how would you handle this situation?

 

Scenario 4:

Your 18 year old son has gone off to college and maintains extravagant "Yuppie Like" tastes in adult toys (cars, stereos, computers, clothes etc.). He lets you know that he expects you to keep him outfitted with all of his material demands while at college and "beyond." You find yourself taking on a second job just so that you can keep up with your son's material demands. As a Pathfinder how would you handle this situation?

 

Scenario 5:

Your 22 year old daughter brings home her lover with whom she has been living with for 2 years. She announces that she is going to marry this man within the next two years and she expects you to give her a "major production" wedding for over 300 guests at your own expense. You are not in favor of this union. You do not like her boyfriend. You feel she is making a major mistake and you want to tell her you are not in favor of her marrying him. Further you will not pay for a thing if she does marry him.. As a Pathfinder how would you handle this situation?

 

Scenario 6:

Your 27 year old son has a drinking problem and is having marital problems. His wife kicked him out because he becomes abusive with her. He calls you up to ask you if he can stay with you until his wife "comes to her senses" and lets him come back to her. You are torn. You want him to stop drinking, but you feel guilty since you have a history of alcoholism in your family and feel bad that he has inherited the "family disease." On the other hand you do not want to contribute to his getting "sicker" if he is abandoned by both his wife and his parents. You would rather house him and hopefully let him dry out and go on the wagon while living with you than taking the risk he will go on a major "bender" if he has no place to live. As a Pathfinder how would you handle this situation?

 

Scenario 7:

Your 30 year old son, who is married and has two children under 5 years of age, was just laid off from his 8th job in 8 years. He calls you to find out if you will provide him the rent and food money he needs until he can get back on his feet. This is the eighth time he has turned to you in his need. You have not even gotten back on your feet financially since the last time he was in this predicament. As a Pathfinder how would you handle this situation?

 

Scenario 8:

Your 32 year old daughter has had two failed marriages and she has moved into your home with her two children ages 8 and 10. You find their presence in your home has become a burden to you financially and emotionally. You find that your daughter is over using you a babysitter as she has begun to go out nightly to "get on with her life." You never get paid for your babysitting and she never pays rent and rarely pays for the food she and her children eat. You find yourself getting resentful but because of fear of being too rageful you have withdrawn more and more from her. As a Pathfinder how would you handle this situation?

 

Scenario 9:

Your grandson who is 13 keeps calling you to tell you how aweful it is at home with his parents arguing and yelling all the time. He asks you if you would let him move in with you. He is afraid that his parents are going to hurt each other. He also says they might possibly hurt him if they knew he had called you. You are torn up about this. You know that your child and his or her spouse have severe emotional problems. You are scared because you know that as a young child your son or daughter had been abusive to you and other members of your family. You call a lawyer to find out what you can do to save your grandson. As a Pathfinder how would you handle this situation?

 

Scenario 10:

Your child threatens to commit suicide unless you are willing to do what he or she has just asked for you to do for him or her. As a Pathfinder how would you handle this situation?

Answer Key: Pathfinder Boundary Development Scenarios Exercise

Scenario 1: As a Pathfinder you would inform your child that he or she is responsible for his or her academic progress in school. You will no longer spend any time in monitoring homework or study time. You will no longer set limits on phone or TV use. You will no longer respond to Scholarship warnings from school and will inform your child's teachers that you are following a parenting principle of setting boundaries between you and your child and making your child responsible for his or her own school progress to encourage your child to experience the natural consequences for his or her lack of responsibility academically. You will keep up this process until your child graduates from high school or college.

 

Scenario 2: As a Pathfinder you would establish limits on your emotional involvement with your daughter's life. You would inform her that her involvement with this 20 year old man is questionable. You let her know about the need to have "safe sex." You inform her that you will never raise a grandchild in your home. You tell her that if she intends to continue to see this man that she needs to do it openly and not hide her involvement from you any more. You let go of the need to change and control her and put your focus back on yourself and your own emotional needs. You hand this problem over to your Higher Power and you work at being unhooked and detached from the situation. You give your daughter unconditional acceptance and provide her your open ear and heart in case things change in her situation with her "man."

 

Scenario 3: As a Pathfinder, you would inform your son that if he wants a car when he is 16 that would be OK with you as long as four conditions were met. The conditions would be: (1) He would need to buy the car with his own money which he earns on his own. (2) He would need to pay his own car insurance and car maintenance expenses (e.g. gas, oil and repairs). (3) He would need to show more respect and be more cooperative around the house to earn the right for you to sign for his temporary and permanent Driver's License. (4) He would have to maintain a minimum of a B average in school before you would allow him on your insurance policy because you would get a "good student" discount if his grade average was B or higher and that you would not be able to afford to have him on your insurance policy unless such a discount was available to him and you. You then step back and let the reality set in. Most probably he will continue to test you and try to hook you into more anger and rage responses. You will work hard at doing healthy ANGER workouts and LET GO efforts so that you do not get hooked back into "power struggles" with him.

 

Scenario 4: As a Pathfinder, you would inform your son prior to his Sophmore year in High School that there is a limit to your support once he goes off to college. He will need to cover all extra expenses over the normal costs of tuition, room and board and books at a State College or University. If you son wants to go to a private school, he will need to find a way to make up the differences between the tuition of a state school and the private institution. Also your son would be told that he is expected to cover the cost of car insurance, car maintenance, and all other adult toys he desires. You hold firm to this limit and redirect him every time he slips and lets his entitlement needs show.

 

Scenario 5:

As a Pathfinder, you would inform your daughter that although you are not in favor of her marriage plans that you would work along with her to have a wedding which would be less costly than what she had planned. However if she wants as large a wedding as she had planned, you would give her the amount of money you are willing to spend as your portion of the overall costs. You let her know that she will need to come up with the remaining amount of money to have the size wedding she desires to have. You back off from making negative comments about the wedding and her future spouse. You do your ANGER work out in healthy ways so that you can LET GO and hand over this situation to your Higher Power. You are going to lose no matter what you do. It would be better to go along in a minor way than to refuse to participate in your daughter's wedding. You do not want to push your daughter away so that chance of having an intimate relationship with her in the future is imperiled.

 

Scenario 6:

As a Pathfinder, you would inform your son that you will not interfere in his domestic problems with his wife and therefore you will not allow him to live in your house while he tries to earn his way back home. You would not mention how he needs to get off booze, get to AA and turn his life over to God. You will do major ANGER work and do major LET GO work and hand your son and his wife over to your Higher Power and remain open and communicative with them both and stay detached from the "hooks" of their marital distress.

 

Scenario 7:

As a Pathfinder you would inform your son that you can no longer provide financial support for him and his family because you can no longer afford it, given your current circumstances. (This is not a lie, since you cannot afford to put your emotional health at risk anymore) You then inform him of the resources available to him such as unemployment, food stamps, county and state welfare, and subsidized housing. You work hard at keeping open communication with him and try not to get hooked into rescuing him as you have in the past. You do not lecture him about his irresponsibility. You do not give him any advise about how he should turn his life around. You work hard at being detached and do not allow yourself to "guilt" yourself into rescuing your son when he seems not to be improving his circumstances and continuing to put his own family at risk. You realize as a Pathfinder, that you have been enabling him in the past to continue his pattern of irresponsibility at his work site, because he has always relied on you to rescue him when he got fired or lost his job.

 

Scenario 8:

As a Pathfinder you would inform your daughter that you are giving her two months to find an apartment for she and her children to move to. You also inform her that you can no longer provide babysitting service for her since you you can't fit it into your current calendar, (This is not a lie since you have ignored taking time for yourself in the past year and that you are going to reclaim your life.) You do not yell, rant or rave. You do your ANGER work away from her and do LET Go work so that you can accept her unconditionally and remain detached from her "hooks" of making you feel responsible to make up for her being irresponsible and immature in the way she handles her life, her children and her relationships with men.

 

Scenario 9:

As a Pathfinder, you would contact your child and his or her spouse for a joint meeting to discuss your concerns about their current marital strife. You mention your fear of their becoming overly abusive with one another and also your fear that they might become abusive to their children. You inform them that you will not interfere anymore than this discussion. They need to know that if their problems erupt, to be more abusiveness than what they have been, you will be forced to call the police to inform them of the abuse in the household and the danger their children are in. You would also let them know that there are family and domestic violence programs in the community which could be very useful for them to mediate their interpersonal problems.

 

Scenario 10:
As a Pathfinder, you would inform your child (between the ages of 12 and late adulthood) that you will not be blackmailed into doing something for him or her which you, at this time, do not want or are able to do. You let your child know that you will not feel guilty if he or she commits suicide over this issue. You let your child know that you have handed him or her over to your Higher Power and whatever he or she does in response to your refusal is now out of your hands. You let your child know that his or her life is his or her responsibility and that no matter what he or she does, you will not accept responsibility for his or her actions. Finally you let him or her know that people who threaten suicide are usually put into psychiatric facilities involuntarily and that you will proceed to get officials to put him or her in such an institution if he or she persist in making such suicidal threats in the future. 
Journal Exercise:

1. How intimate is your relationship with your adolescent and young adult children? What barriers exist to having an intimate family life with your older children? What could you do differently to improve the intimacy which you share with your older children?

2. What emotional hooks do your older children know are sure fire ways for you to lower your boundaries with them? What have you done in the past to lessen your being hooked in these ways? What are some reasons why you are still being hooked by your older children? What do you need to do to lessen the impact of these hooks in your life?

3. What irrational beliefs underlie your being hooked by your older children? What new messages do you need to give yourself to get unhooked and remain unhooked in the future so that you can maintain your boundaries with your older children?

4. What are some reasons why you have allowed yourself to be hooked by your children when you have known what they were doing to you? Why are you able to know what is healthy for you to do and yet you act in unhealthy ways? What do you need to do to change this situation?

5. Guilt has a tremendous impact in most people's lives. How does it impact your relationship with your older children? What do you need to do to LET GO of guilt so that your older children can no longer hook you into do unhealthy things for them?

6. How did you respond to the scenario exercise? How did you feel about the scenarios? If you shared them with your children, how did you feel about their response to them? How did you feel about your children's responses to the scenarios? How did you and your children respond to the Pathfinder responses in the answer key?

7. What anger issues, identified in this , are true for you in your life with your older children? What do you need to do to release your anger so that you can reclaim your own life?

8. How well are your personal rights in a family respected in your dealings with your older children? How well are your children's rights respected in their relationship with you? What needs to be done to change this situation for both you and your older children?

9. How well do you set boundaries on your (A) time, (B) money, (C) external resources, (D) internal resources and (E) emotions with your older children? What do you need to do to change this situation so that you can have healthier boundaries with your older children?

10. What is the status of your (A) calendar, (B) Budget, (C) Rules for external resources, (D) Rules for internal resources, and (E) emotional limits with your older children? What do you need to do to change this situation so that you can hold to your limits to insure your relationship with them is intimate and healthy?