I’m a man in my 30s and struggling to separate myself from my parents

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a single man in my 30s and am wondering how I should act around my parents going forward.

I’m an only child and have been adored by my parents. I have lived my entire life being protected by them and have been unable to become fully independent as I have grown to need their affection. I think my life revolves around my parents.

After finding a job to become more independent, I moved out and lived far away from them. However, I always worried about them and ended up going back home every two weeks. Eventually, my job required me to return to my hometown, so I moved back in with my parents.

My parents are really kind, but — and this might be obvious for someone like me — they still treat me like a child. Even when I wasn’t living at home, they called me every week. I sometimes felt bad for making them worry.

I want to give myself some space from my parents, but I have yet to have the will to do so. It’s embarrassing to ask for advice about this at my age, but I’m wondering what other people normally do to keep an appropriate distance from their parents. Please tell me what I should do to become independent.

— H, Kyoto Prefecture

Dear Mr. H:

There is no normal or correct way for keeping an appropriate distance between parents and children as it varies in families. Parent-child relationships change over time.

When I was about 30 years old, I was single, like you, and had my hands full every day with my writing job and going to the movies. I only went back to my parents’ house about twice a year.

As people get older, most become busy with work, dating, marriage, hobbies and other matters that expand their circle of friends beyond the home. This naturally reduces the amount of time and thought thy give to their parents.

It seems that your parents do not impose restrictions on you, nor prevent you from leaving. As you are already aware, the source of your anxiety comes from your inability to separate yourself from your parents.

As you haven’t been able to become independent, it is only natural for them to continue treating you “like a child.” I think your parents are also worried about you.

The issue isn’t about a distance, but about your own problem with becoming emotionally independent.

Please find something outside the home that excites you. The best thing you can do for your parents is to make friends and find a partner who you can trust outside the family and enjoy time with them.

— Tomomi Fujiwara, writer