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How Do I Handle my Overprotective Family?

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I am 23 and a recent college grad. I got an excellent job and moved out on my own finally, but every time I tell my family I have plans with friends they always overreact and berate me which causes me to lie despite being an adult.

For example, this weekend my girlfriend and I and one of her friends are going to DC for the weekend. They dont even know I am pansexual because they’d probably disown and verbally abuse me for it. I told them I was going with friends from college. I live approx. 45 minutes from DC and they practically read me the riot act for going. Everything from not wanting me to drive on the highway alone (they always assume i can’t handle myself alone) to even as far as asking for my friends’ numbers and addresses. They always call me for hours on end every day and constantly ask¬†where I am or where im going. Then they try to guilt trip me for never bringing friends home.

Am I overreacting because I feel that is too far and a breach of my privacy?

How Do I Handle my Overprotective Family?

Answered by on -


No. You are not over-reacting. You are 23. You have made important steps into adulthood by graduating from college, finding a good job, and moving out on your own. Your parents seem to be having enormous difficulty with the idea that you aren’t their little girl any more and that you are, in fact, an adult. That means that you are free to make your own choices; that you have a right to privacy; and you are even free to make your own mistakes and to learn from them.

You didn’t share with me any speculations about why your folks are so, so protective. Do understand that overprotection is usually based in fear. You have only to read the news to understand why some parents are scared to let their children out of their sight. Then again, there are parents who are generally extremely anxious people who feel unsafe in the world. Some have personal histories of being hurt by others that make their caution make a kind of sense. And sometimes parental fears are a reaction to mistakes their kids have made in the past that left them unsure of their kid’s judgment.

Then again, some parents have been so involved with their kids that they don’t have lives of their own anymore. They therefore hold on tight to parenting when they ought to be taking the opportunity to pursue interests of their own. Do any of these possible reasons apply to your folks?

I suggest you take a compassionate route and try to understand what is at the base of their over-concern. If you can, address that directly. That won’t work if their worries are totally irrational. To argue over irrational issues will only increase the problem. But if their concerns are even a little bit justified, it may help to acknowledge that and to reassure them that you can now handle whatever it is.

Whatever you do, don’t fight about your right to have a life of your own. Fighting keeps you involved in a negative way. Instead, choose a time and place when tension is minimal for an adult discussion about how they can help you be an adult.

Emphasize how much you love them and appreciate their continued concern and love. Reassure them that they did a good job raising you and now you have to use that good training as best you can. Explain that the way to love you now is to have some confidence in their own good parenting.

It’s okay to draw some boundaries around how much they call you. Tell them that their constant calls aren’t a vote of confidence but that you do want to share what’s going on in your life with them. Make a mutually agreeable time for a weekly friendly chat. Explain it isn’t necessary or appropriate for them to call your friends. Assure them you have emergency contact numbers in your wallet so they will be notified if you are in an accident.

Do keep private issues that will only upset them private. They will be more ready to hear about choices they won’t like when they have gotten used to the idea that you can keep yourself safe.

If nothing seems to work, do consider seeing a family therapist. A family therapist can hear your whole story and give you much better help than I can.

I wish you well,

Dr. Marie

How Do I Handle my Overprotective Family?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2020). How Do I Handle my Overprotective Family?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 19 Feb 2020 (Originally: 21 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 19 Feb 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.