1. Establish New Boundaries
The first thing you should do is establish new boundaries. Remember the boundaries you set as a teenager? Maybe you locked your bedroom door so your mom couldn’t barge in. Maybe you put a lock on your journal so your mom couldn’t read it. Well as an adult, you need to set boundaries too. If your needy parent is constantly meddling in your business or trying to dominate your time and attention, you need to set boundaries that keep them as distant as you need them to be.
2. Create a Contact Schedule
It wouldn’t be appropriate to cut your needy parent out of your life completely (at least without good reason), so set up a contact schedule. This includes when you’ll call or visit them and when they can call or visit you. That way, you won’t have to worry about unexpected visits or calls when your house is a mess, you’re hosting a party, have a date over or are too busy with work and kids. Your contact with your needy parent can be as frequent or as infrequent as is comfortable and healthy for you.
3. Encourage an Active Social Life
If your needy parent is complaining about having nothing to do or they’re feeling lonely, encourage them to have an active social life. Encourage them to make new friends while they volunteer in their community. They could take a dance class or take a cruise or travel with a group. If they have an active social life, your needy parent will be less likely to bother you.
4. Explore External Support
Some needy parents use guilt to maintain an overbearing, intrusive relationship with their adult children. They may talk about being depressed or complain of aches and pains that make it impossible for them to not be in such close contact with their children. This is going to make you feel guilty, but don’t fall for it. Instead, find local support for your needy parent. If they’re depressed, find a therapist or support group for them to go to. If they have medical issues, make sure they see a doctor and get a treatment plan. And if your parent refuses? Then you can refuse to discuss their issues with them. They don’t want to help; they just want you to feel guilty.
You’ve Done Nothing Wrong
Growing up, moving out, being successful and having a life of your own is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s normal, and you have your parents to thank for their support. But just because they’ve supported you for the first 18 – 21 years of your life, it doesn’t mean you have to let them hold you emotionally hostage for the rest of their lives. If you have a needy parent, they need to find their new normal.