How to Establish Healthy Family Boundaries
Instant Pot. Instant Noodles. Instagram. We live in an instant culture. The whole world is at our fingertips and we are at the fingertips of the whole world. With all the demands and interruptions, it can be difficult to discern our needs and nearly impossible to communicate them. Yet if we do not learn to tap into and express our own needs and the desideratums of our family, how can we teach our children to do the same? What hope do our children have to know, love and express themselves in a demanding culture?
Our children need to see that it is okay, even healthy, to have individual and family boundaries. Boundaries allow us to respect ourselves and accomplish our goals. We say no to one thing in order to say yes to another. Boundaries are the ways we develop ourselves to be healthy, wise, and joyous. The time spent playing video games, watching shows or checking out Instagram could easily turn into hours. The “social obligation" to help a friend on Facebook could turn into nights of tears and drama. Setting healthy boundaries for ourselves and our families gives us time to understand ourselves, our needs and ways to grow. So how do we set healthy boundaries and teach our families to do the same?
The first step is to realize you cannot do it all. It is hard to come to the realization that you are not always that super-parent you want to be. Nonetheless, letting your children see your weakness, your tiredness and your failures gives them hope that they – normal humans – can achieve greatness while being themselves. Here are a few more tips to help set healthy boundaries.
Say Goodbye to Peer Pressure.
There is definitely wisdom in listening to good counsel, but the days of giving into peer pressure should be long gone. Make choices that are best for you and your family rather than commitments from guilt, obligation or fear.
Choose Quality Over Quantity.
Sometimes life feels easier when we are busy. We have places to go, people to see, things to accomplish. Yet in all the busyness we can lose sight of ourselves, our needs and our potential. Take time to evaluate your commitments and choose the ones that will develop you and your family into the people you want to be.
Everyone Is Different.
Some people have unlimited energy. Others can barely make it through the day. As someone who has been at both extremes it is important to remember to do what is healthy for you and your family. Do not slip into the vicious cycle of comparison. Be grateful for what you can do.
Know When to Say No.
As parents we have busy schedules. Piano at three. Baseball at four. Boy scouts at five. The list is never ending. We are so dedicated to our families, friends, our kids’ schools yet we often develop skills without developing the child. Take time to invest more into your children, your spouse and close relationships than your activities. Someday they’ll thank you.
Make Decisions Together.
One of the best parts of creating healthy boundaries is saying yes. That yes should not be limited to what the parents want or what the kids want but should reflect the desires, talents, skills and growth of the whole family. Choosing your yeses together not only shows each individual they are valued but also binds the family together bringing unity. Take time to listen to and incorporate every family member's ideas into your yeses.
Slowly Let Go.
I am so grateful for my parents’ insight that they were raising their kids to be well developed adults. As we grew they turned over more and more responsibility to us kids and respected our ability to make our own decisions (with in reason). By the time I left for college, I was simply changing location and roommates. The freedom I was given to both succeed and fail as I rose to the responsibility challenge served as a great teacher.
Boundaries give you and your family freedom. Freedom to live together. Freedom to laugh together. Freedom to grow together. And freedom to be – just be – together. Say yes today to you!
Antoinette is a wife and mother of two young boys. In addition to her experience as a parent, Antoinette draws valuable insights from her many years as an elementary school teacher and her masters degree in education. She also offers interactive lessons for preschool and early elementary aged children on her Etsy store, Reason2Discover.