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Episode 22

How Can I Establish Boundaries When My Young Adult Child Is Struggling?

Episode 22

Many parents struggle with effective ways to set and maintain boundaries as their children transition from adolescence to young adulthood. Young adults are starting to seek more freedom and gain independence yet are still reliant on their parents in many ways. This dynamic can be particularly difficult to navigate when a young adult is struggling with mental health or other life challenges.

In this episode, Clinical Therapist Mariah Loftin discusses the importance of establishing healthy boundaries in the face of these challenges. She offers tangibles strategies parents can use for setting appropriate expectations and offering appropriate guidance. She outlines how to use healthy communication skills when having conversations with young adults, as well as when co-parenting. She addresses the different challenges young adults face growing up in this day and age, why parents need to be able to resource and care for themselves, and when families may want to seek outside help. Mariah highlights that boundaries are crucial to supporting and guiding young adults and can help them launch into a successful life of independence.



Mariah Loftin

Mariah Loftin

Clinical Director and Senior Therapist

Mariah joined Open Sky in 2012 and has been an integral member of the clinical team ever since. As Clinical Director, Mariah leads Open Sky’s treatment team in delivering a transformative therapeutic experience for students and families. She is attuned to the evolving needs of the Open Sky community and is known for her passion and skill for leadership and development. In addition to her work as Clinical Director, Mariah carries a caseload of students. In her work as a clinician, Mariah skillfully blends her background as a psychotherapist, behavior analyst, and art therapist to build deep and positive connections with students and parents while supporting the family system through change. She is recognized by clients and peers for her positive nature, open personality, and tenacious dedication.

Mariah is experienced in a variety of treatment modalities, including art therapy, behavior analysis, body-centered psychotherapy for trauma, dialectical behavior therapy, family systems therapy, motivational interviewing, and acceptance and commitment therapy. She is quickly able to assess and appropriately treat students, masterfully illuminating the issues that are difficult for them to face and supporting their work on those core issues.  She excels at helping students examine and appreciate the many dimensions of themselves, including their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Before joining Open Sky, Mariah worked as a clinician for Imagine! Colorado and had a private practice comprised of group and individual sessions. She has over 15 years of experience working with young people and their families.

When Mariah is not in the field at Open Sky, you can find her in her art studio, hiking with her dogs, river rafting, gardening, or touring on her bicycle around the world.


We want to support that young person launching, and we also want to hold them accountable to the things they say they are going to do. That actually supports a young person being a responsible young adult. So if we are just saying ‘yes, you can do whatever you want,’ we’re not actually guiding them. So that’s the role I think parents need to think about playing, that you are supporting them and guiding them with your boundaries.

True communication is supporting connection. It’s one person speaking and one person really hearing. Not to say that you can control how your child hears you, but in the same moment, you can control how you hear your child.

If you are clear about those expectations and your child is not able to meet them, that actually gives you really important information. They’re not in a place where they can ‘adult.’ They’re not in a place where they can have the utmost responsibility. Or maybe they’re out of control, and you need to take a higher level of control. And that’s where a program like Open Sky can come in as an intervention.

A key thing that happens with parents is they feel like an island, and they feel alone in these struggles. So be aware that there are people outside your family system who can be supportive. And I would most often say, talk to professionals. Because there is a reality that sometimes our extended families don’t know as much as a professional with an objective perspective might. Be open to help and recognize that you don’t have to do this alone.


Emily Fernandes

Emily Fernandes

Executive Director & Co-Founder

On a wilderness trip in Alaska with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in 1995, Emily discovered she could combine two of her passions: working with youth and being outdoors. Since then, she has worked for Aspen Achievement Academy, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, and Connecticut Wilderness School. She was part of the founding team at Open Sky.

Emily worked as the lead therapist for adolescent girls for her first 5 years at Open Sky. Her areas of clinical expertise include depression, anxiety, grief and loss, trauma, self-harm, disordered eating, and adoption and attachment issues. Her clinical approach is informed by cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, family systems, and attachment theories. Relationship building through letter writing is a major focus of her work with students and families.

As a founder and owner of Open Sky, as well as the Clinical and Executive Director, Emily brings a breadth of knowledge with her background as a therapist, field guide, trainer, logistics coordinator, emergency responder, and field director, Emily is known for her direct, caring leadership style, her ability to inspire excellence in others, and her team oriented approach. The student treatment plan is her compass for her decision-making regarding Open Sky’s students, families, and employees.

Emily loves reading, writing, yoga, mountain biking, telemark skiing, rock climbing, spending time with friends and family, and cooking with foods from the local farmers’ market.


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