How to Set and Hold Healthy Boundaries
Session Objectives: The goal of this session is to help you better understand, set, hold, and respect healthy boundaries with the young adults in our program.
Transcript of the Training Below
At Finally Family Homes we value building and holding to healthy boundaries, especially when interacting with our young adults. Boundaries help create a safe environment for you and those in our programs. Clearly communicating your boundaries and respecting those of others will make for better relationships.
Boundaries- What are they?
Boundaries are defined as guidelines or limits that a person may create to identify what are reasonable, safe, and permissible ways for other people to behave around them and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits that they have created.
Boundaries represent physical and emotional limits that you don’t want other people to cross. Creating boundaries helps us care for ourselves and others. When we establish good boundaries, it helps protect you and others from confusion, frustration, and preventable conflict.
Physical boundaries: physical proximity, sexuality, and how much space you are willing to share with someone.
- How do you feel about loud music or locked doors in your home?
- Who can go where and when in your house?
- Are you OK with hugs?
Material boundaries: related to possessions and the right you have to the respect and protection of your property.
Emotional boundaries: the respect for the feelings of each person involved.
Intellectual boundaries: the respect for people’s ideas.
Why are Boundaries Important
Boundaries are important for everyone. They help ensure we maintain a safe environment and demonstrate mutual respect for our integrity and the integrity of others.
For young adults who’ve experienced foster care, we know that often unhealthy boundaries have been set and healthy boundaries have been crossed. They often lack a healthy sense of safe boundaries as well as the skills to set or enforce them.
They might feel the need to bury their feelings of discomfort and be hesitant to communicate about their boundaries. However, creating, maintaining, and respecting boundaries is key to their healing and growth, as well as their ability to succeed in life.
As you engage with our young adults, your leadership in setting boundaries can teach them how to have relationships that are mutually respectful, appropriate, and caring. And these boundaries will help them build confidence in how to approach you, ask for things, and engage with you in a comfortable way.
But it’s not just you who sets the boundaries. By allowing a young adult to set their own boundaries, you give them a voice and validation to their feelings so they feel seen, safe, and cared for.
How to Set Healthy Boundaries
Much of the time, we are not specifically aware of our boundaries until they get crossed. Like you may not go around telling everyone you meet not to stand too close to you, but if you’re in line at Starbucks and a stranger leans within a few inches of you – you become keenly aware of that personal boundary and may move slightly to protect it.
So take some time to think about unspoken rules or expectations you have in your home. Write them down.
Make them clear, reasonable, and consistent. Say exactly what you mean so that others understand. Be polite, but not so polite the message gets lost. Be direct and clear.
It’s also important to prioritize your boundaries. Some are going to be non-negotiables for you – such as no wildlife in your house. Others may be somewhat flexible, like not leaving your shoes blocking the front door.
Setting boundaries at the very beginning will reduce the likelihood of confusion and hurt feelings.
Side Note: Just because you are uncomfortable doesn’t mean a boundary has been crossed. Sometimes, an uncomfortable conversation is necessary for deeper healing and personal growth.
How to receive Healthy Boundaries
As I mentioned earlier, it’s important for our young adults to learn how to set, hold, and have their boundaries respected. They may have a particularly quirky boundary that doesn’t make sense to you but may be a trigger or painful link to something in their past. In most cases, they don’t owe an explanation for their boundaries. We don’t need to understand their motives to respect their boundaries.
Just as you don’t have to over explain why you set a boundary – especially as it may get into sensitive topics for you, it’s important to not demand explanations from our young adults for their boundaries. While it can be beneficial to explain your reasons, it is not required.
It’s important to remember these boundaries are not meant to be taken as personally offensive – for you or for them but to create safe relationships. Focus on listening and communicating your intent to respect the expressed boundary.
How to Hold / Enforce Boundaries
At some point, boundaries are likely to be crossed. They were set for a reason, so it’s important to hold and enforce them. Not only for your benefit but for theirs. You are modeling to them how to hold their boundaries in a safe and caring way. It’s important not to just “let it go” or let the issue go unaddressed for too long just to be nice.
We believe it’s important for you to communicate directly and calmly with the young adult. Before talking to them, consider what factors may be at play that led to the boundary violation.
We encourage you to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it’s a particularly challenging boundary for them, maybe there needs to be a new or more clearly defined boundary agreed upon, or perhaps they just forgot.
That said, here are some ideas for gently confronting and reinforcing boundary violations
- Restate the boundary and what you observed when it was breached.
- Talk about the fallout and impact on you and the relationship. What was broken? Your sense of safety? Your trust? etc.
- Brainstorm alongside the young adult how to:
- Restore any damage
- Rebuild trust
- Help them stick to the boundary
Remember to have some patience and grace in the beginning, especially about the lesser important boundaries. Give gentle reminders as it may be a lot of new information to take in right away and nobody is perfect.
If you find that your boundaries are being repeatedly crossed or the situation isn’t being resolved, reach out to us to help support you in the situation.
Healthy boundaries are a key component to every healthy relationship, especially with the young adults in our program. Be clear, concise, and kind when setting boundaries. Be receptive and respectful when receiving boundaries and don’t demand an explanation. Model kindness and assertiveness when holding a young adult accountable to the boundaries that have been set.