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Talking to Your Child about Healthy Boundaries

Guest Blog Post by Rand Batarseh with sexedva.org

Setting healthy personal boundaries, as well as being able to identify and respect those of others, is critical for developing healthy relationships. It is critical to instill healthy boundaries in children at a young age. It will be easier for them to manage good relationships as adults if they learn about their own limits and recognize the necessity of respecting others’.

What are personal boundaries?

Personal boundaries refer to a variety of interactions and relationships. Our personal boundaries will inevitably shift based on the situation, the individuals we’re interacting with, and our own level of comfort. To teach children about the importance of personal boundaries, it’s vital to know how such boundaries present themselves in our interactions.

Types of boundaries

Material

How we approach lending money and other belongings is governed by our material boundaries. Parents teach their children about sharing and respecting other children’s toys and items, so even young children must be aware of material boundaries.

Physical

The way we define personal space and our comfort with physical touch is influenced by physical boundaries. The right to physical autonomy, often known as bodily integrity, is an extremely important concept for children to learn. Parents can teach their children to respect physical boundaries by not forcing them to hug or kiss family members if they do not want to. This demonstrates that people have the freedom and the right to refuse physical contact.

Mental

Healthy Mental boundaries allow us to have autonomous opinions and to be confident in our own positions. Too rigid mental borders, on the other hand, might cause us to stay stuck in our ways, unable to develop or adapt when confronted with fresh information or a different perspective.

Emotional

Emotional boundaries are the most important to maintain, yet they may also be the most challenging. Healthy emotional boundaries allow us to maintain our independence by separating our needs, wants, and feelings from those of our friends and family. They also keep us from putting unjustified blame on others for our own emotions or accepting blame or guilt for the emotions of others.

 

Teaching children healthy boundaries

 

Set a good example

Check in with yourself on a regular basis to see how your personal boundaries are doing, and keep them healthy so that your children can learn from you. Teaching children about appropriate boundaries, like many other lessons passed down from parents to children, is easier when parents can lead by example.

Start by asking yourself the following questions. Are you able to regularly manage your boundaries? Do you address why you’re enforcing your boundaries with your children when you have to?

Emphasize confidence and emotional intelligence

Healthy boundaries often require us to be confident in our own opinions, desires, and needs. In order to build that confidence, children need to learn how to identify what they need, where their limits are, and the types of interactions with which they are comfortable.

Parents can help children build emotional intelligence through open and honest discussion. Talk about emotions frequently in age-appropriate terms, and encourage them to bring up their feelings without shame. Once your child is old enough, ask questions that will help them gain a better understanding of their motivations and reactions. You can begin with questions like,

  • How did that make you feel?
  • Why do you think you felt that way?
  • Would you do anything differently next time?

Teach them that it’s okay to say ‘No’

The ability to say “no” is a basic skill that every child should learn because it applies to all forms of personal boundaries. Saying “no” is a necessary part of many human relationships, whether it’s refusing to lend money, refusing to accept unjustified blame, or enforcing your personal space.

Practice early and often with your child. Run through different scenarios—saying no to a family member asking for a hug, for example, will sound different than saying no to a friend’s peer pressure—and emphasize that a simple ‘no’ is sometimes more than sufficient.

While practicing how to say no, follow-up with discussions about how to react when on the receiving end of one. They will learn that another person’s ‘No’ deserves to be respected and that, in turn, can give them confidence in the validity of their own ‘no.’

You can find more information about talking to your child about healthy boundaries at the following links:

https://www.ourfamilywizard.com/blog/teaching-kids-about-healthy-boundaries

https://childmind.org/article/teaching-kids-boundaries-empathy/

This blog post was contributed by Rand Batarseh of SexEdVA, a division of James Madison University working to support sexual health education, family life programming, and positive youth development across Virginia. To inquire about partnering with them or to find out more, visit www.sexedva.org or email them at jmuarp@jmu.edu.

This publication was made possible by Grant Number TP1AH000215 from the HHS Office of Population Affairs. Contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Department of Health and Human Services or the Office of Population Affairs.

Published by Anchoring Hope

We are a small collective of counselors dedicated to distributing helpful, relatable content directly to your device! We also provide counseling services to those in Virginia & an anxiety training that can be accessed around the globe!

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