Learning to set and keep personal boundaries is an important part of growing up.
Teens who communicate their boundaries with friends, family, and others experience better self-esteem and sense of well-being. Boundaries are key to developing relationships that are supportive and respectful. They can even improve mental health.
Not having and maintaining boundaries can lead to issues like low self-esteem, approval-seeking, learned helplessness, and the fear of being rejected or criticized. When teens are unable to set healthy boundaries for themselves they will continually be pushed to their edge by others in their lives. They will feel frustrated, used and angry, and may not even understand why.
Unfortunately, many adults struggle to understand boundaries in their own lives, let alone in the lives of their teens.
What Exactly Are Boundaries?
Boundaries are guidelines, rules, and limits that a person creates to identify reasonable and safe ways for other people to behave towards them, and the consequences that will occur if someone crosses them. Setting clear boundaries is what helps you feel safe and in control.
Boundaries are a necessary part of self-care and are a crucial aspect of one’s mental health and well-being.
Boundaries are necessary for healthy relationships–with family, friends, coworkers, strangers. Setting boundaries can help to promote security and trust in nearly every relationship we experience.
When your boundaries are held by others, you will feel comfortable, validated, and respected. Likewise, when your boundaries are pushed or ignored, you will feel uncomfortable, depleted, unsafe, and disrespected.
Boundaries can help you live a more full life by giving you the tools to care for yourself and your needs. You will be better able to know your limits and recognize when you feel depleted or taken advantage of. Boundaries are helpful tools to implement so that all of the relationships in your life can be healthy, positive, and safe.
Teens and Boundaries
For the same reasons adults benefit from boundaries, teens need boundaries to protect themselves from being hurt, manipulated, or disrespected. Adolescence is the perfect time to learn boundary-setting because it is the time of identity formation.
Teens often find themselves in difficult situations with friends, dating partners, and others where they struggle to communicate their needs or their values. Teens who have established their personal boundaries stand a much better chance of sticking to their guns. Those who have established boundaries can fall back on them when a relationship or situation gets sticky.
Teens with boundaries are less likely to let others make them feel disrespected, invalidated, or worthless. Boundaries can keep teens safe, figuratively and quite literally.
How You Can Help
The answer is to work on setting and maintaining your own boundaries. Teaching teens about boundaries is great, but it always works better if you model the behavior you want to see in them.
Yes, it can be tough. It may take time and practice, especially if you have not created and held boundaries for yourself in the past. Setting boundaries can be uncomfortable, as it forces us to speak for ourselves, follow through with what we say, and take more responsibility for our feelings and actions.
But once you understand why setting boundaries is so important, you will be able to decide what boundaries you would like in your life, and move forward with setting them–knowing your teen is watching.
In our next blog post, we will talk specifically about unhealthy vs. healthy boundaries, and how to help teens create and maintain personal boundaries for a lifetime of successful and happy relationships.