Karen C.L. Anderson, author of Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters, has been featured in an article written by Simone Paget on why parents should stop snooping on their kids.
When parents need to step back and stop snooping on their adult children
Author of the article: Simone Paget
Last Wednesday my pandemic-fuelled binge-watching reached an all-time low when I found myself glued to Baewatch: Parental Guidance — the U.K.-based reality show that is currently airing on Netflix.
If you love tasteful, wholesome, feel-good TV shows like the Great British Bake Off, Baewatch: Parental Guidance is the exact opposite. In fact, the show’s premise sounds like it was dreamed up by the 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy. Each episode follows an unsuspecting, self-styled happy couple as they put their relationships to the test on a romantic getaway in the sun. The catch: their parents are watching their every move through hidden cameras in the hotel room next door. The show is an unsettling mash-up of Love Island, the 1993 movie Sliver and every one of your worst nightmares.
Skeptical of their children’s so-called perfect relationships, the parents go to great lengths to “discover the truth” about their kids’ love lives. They watch them get naked, make out in hot tubs and even sleep — all while listening in on intimate conversations. There’s also a scene in each episode where the parents sneak into the couple’s room and rifle through their luggage — manhandling personal items like lingerie, vibrators and more. In the third quarter of the episode the parents confront their children about their findings.
It’s a masterclass in overstepping boundaries guaranteed to provide fodder for many therapy sessions to come. (Therapist: “just a shot in the dark here — but from what you’ve told me I think your trust issues may stem from seeing your Dad wear a pair of your underwear on his head whilst on national TV.”)
While some of the couples on the show could benefit from an intervention — like Sam and Marlie, whose relationship veers into very unhealthy territory after a few drinks — the majority of the couples seem to have relatively typical relationships for people in their twenties. Cringe-worthy antics aside, the show begs the question: how much parental guidance is too much?
It’s natural for parents to want the best for their adult children. However, “a parent oversteps boundaries when they put their needs/wants ahead of the adult child, when they manipulate or try to control their adult child by telling them what to do and how to do it, giving unsolicited advice, using shame and “shoulding” to control them, using ultimatums, repeatedly criticizing their adult child’s partner,” says Karen C.L. Anderson, a master-certified life coach and the author of Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters: A Guide For Separation, Liberation & Inspiration.
What makes these kinds of situations tricky is that the parents aren’t always aware of their behaviour.
“It’s important for the child to recognize and assume that most likely the parent is doing it out of good intentions; it’s rare that parents actually want to cause their children grief on purpose. That said, the child doesn’t have to like or accept the parent’s actions,” says Raffi Bilek, a family therapist and director of Baltimore Therapy Center.
If you feel like your family is interfering in your relationship, it’s important to set healthy boundaries. “Do you want your parents to know something about the person you are with, or nothing at all? Are you interested in their advice sometimes, or only if you ask for it? Once you know where your limits are, you can state them clearly to your parents,” says Bilek.
Parents may feel blindsided, so approach this as lovingly as possible. Bilek suggests you “start off by recognizing their good intentions; then let them know that despite their meaning well, you would like them to abide by certain boundaries, which you can then lay out.”
You may have to have this conversation more than once, “but over time, if you are firm and your parents truly do mean well, it is likely you will be able to come to a livable understanding of where those boundaries lie,” he says.
Lastly, when it comes to setting healthy boundaries with your family, “the more matter-of-fact you can be, the better,” says Anderson.
Be kind but be direct — and always check for hidden cameras.
A Guide For Separation, Liberation & Inspiration (Narcissistic Mother or Borderline Personality Disorder, Mother Daughter Relationship Book)
Difficult mother? The best news on the planet is that your mother doesn’t have to change in order for you to be happy. In fact, author Karen C.L. Anderson will take it a step further and say, your difficult mother doesn’t have to change in order for you to be free, peaceful, content, and joyful.