Everyone has boundaries – whether spoken or unspoken. Children have to learn boundaries so they won’t get hurt – i.e. don’t touch the stove top because it is hot! Teens have to learn boundaries to stay safe and healthy. Adults have to learn boundaries in their families, on the job and in society. When you figure out those boundaries, you can spend your time and energy on being healthy, happy and productive instead of getting in trouble or getting hurt.
What are boundaries?
Boundaries are things that indicate limits or bounds. There are boundaries on a map – natural ones like rivers, lakes, or mountains – or man-made ones like roads or invisible but agreed-upon lines separating states or countries from one another. Boundaries could also be things like fences to keep animals safe. Like countries, states and animals, people need boundaries too. Boundaries are limits that we put into place or someone else put into place that we agree to.
Why are there boundaries?
Boundaries are set so that people know what is acceptable and what is not. Boundaries can tell us how to treat others or how to treat animals. Boundaries can be placed to set guidelines for making healthy choices. Ultimately, boundaries are there so that people can live together in ways that keep them healthy, happy and productive.
Learning acceptable boundaries is one of the secrets to success in life. Many people spend a lot of time figuring that out, but if you understand the importance of boundaries now, you will have a head start! You will bypass the risks that come from experimenting and learning the hard way.
Here at the HRHN iMAD Program, we are working hard to help you have the tools to make healthy choices in your life. Setting boundaries is an important tool. When you set boundaries for yourself, you are doing what is right FOR YOU at all times.
As a young person, your first steps are to set your boundaries. This can be accomplished by checking in with yourself and talking with your trusted adult about appropriate boundaries. Keep in mind that your boundaries should keep you on a path that will help you achieve your goals and be successful and that your boundaries might be different from others.
To start coming up with your boundaries, think about these things:
What kind of boundaries do youth need today?
What are some boundaries your parents or guardians set to keep you safe? Do you like that protection? Why or Why not? Is it necessary?
What are some boundaries you have to follow in other relationships?
What locations and/or situations might compromise your boundaries?
Then, sit down and figure out your boundaries in these categories but keep in mind that everyone must first follow the boundary set by the LAW and (at least until you are out of their house) the boundaries set forth by your parents or guardians: Alcohol, Clothing, Drugs, Dating, Internet/Social Media Behavior, Language, and Sexual Activity.
Once you have your boundaries written down, share them with a trusted friend or adult that can help you stick to your boundaries. If you find yourself “toeing the line” of a boundary you have set for yourself, you might want to re-evaluate your boundaries and move that line back. IF you think you may have trouble keeping your boundaries, remember that the more you practice, the more they will become a part of you. It may seem difficult to always follow the rules and keep your boundaries, but it’s much more difficult to deal with the disappointments that often come when your boundaries are compromised. Also remember, these are your boundaries and probably aren’t the same as your friends. But if they are truly your friends, they will respect and honor your boundaries and you will respect and honor their boundaries.
Here are some tips for training your mind and body to keep your boundaries:
Write them down over and over and over!
Say them in front of a mirror every day!
Practice saying them out loud in front of your friends and family.
As you practice, make sure you are stating your boundaries through your ACTIONS and FACIAL expressions as well as through your WORDS.
Finally, remember that only YOU can protect yourself and your future. Be prepared for someone trying to cross your boundaries (or trying to talk you into crossing them)! The more aware and the more practice you have had in maintaining and communicating your boundaries, the easier it will be to handle those situations.