Why are boundaries important?When your teen was a toddler, you had boundaries for them. Those boundaries were established just as much to keep your sanity for their protection as they learned more about the world. Boundaries help establish an understanding of what is and is not acceptable behavior. They will change as your child grows and as the dynamics of your family change. These rules and boundaries may have evolved over the years, but they are still just as important for your teen’s protection and overall well-being. What does a boundary look like for a teen? They may not need to hold your hand while crossing the street but established rules that relate to safety are still important. Don’t text and drive, don’t get in a car with someone who has been drinking, don’t break into people’s homes, for example. Some other boundaries could include:
- Remind your teen that you each treat each other with respect.
- Authority figures, such as teachers, coaches, and law enforcement should also be treated with respect.
- Not taking money or items without permission from family, friends, and others.
- Speaking with kindness and avoiding name-calling or mouthing off with insults.
- Keeping your space picked up, helping with chores, and generally respecting the home that you live in.
The importance of freedom to your teenYour teen is learning more about the world at large. This includes understanding what boundaries look like for their peers, what they enjoy doing, what they don’t enjoy, and of course, spending time doing the things they enjoy. Your teen may get frustrated thinking that as an adult, you have all of the freedom you want, without giving thought to boundaries that exist for adults with responsibilities. For him, his idea of freedom may mean that he can come and go as he pleases. He can stay up all night. He doesn’t need to take part in family meals or outings. He can swear, drink, go anywhere, do anything, with anyone, at any time. It’s natural then that your boundaries are going to make him bristle. As much as he may bristle, boundaries are an important part of helping him learn how to best act and behave in his community and society.
How can you help your teen stick to boundaries?Perhaps one of the more important things to keep in mind is that having too many boundaries established can prove confusing and frustrating for all. It can also make it difficult for teens to learn to grow with these boundaries as they establish themselves as responsible adults. Keep it simple, keep it workable, keep it adjustable so everyone can adapt as needed. As an example, make it clear that truth and honesty are important within your family. No matter the situation, your teen will find understanding and situation-appropriate support. Keep the boundaries as simple as just a few key phrases. Here are a few examples:
- Honesty, truth, and communication.
- Do your best with school, work, household chores.
- Safety comes first, don’t risk your safety or the safety of others.