How To Build Healthy Boundaries And Teach Them To Your Kids

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I love boundaries. I love how they keep us safe, emotionally and physically. I love how we get to determine what our limits are as humans (and parents) and how our relationships become stronger and healthier once we get used to establishing and maintaining our personal boundaries.

The problem is that, for many of us who first start thinking about and setting our own boundaries, we can get a lot of push back from other people in our lives. If you were raised in a home with poor boundaries, you are likely to have a harder time recognizing your own boundaries and those of others. Children who grow up in a home with childhood emotional neglect or whose parent has a personality disorder struggle even more in this area. Boundaries are taught to children through modeling our own healthy boundaries and by helping children establish their own boundaries. Finally, the critical piece is allowing our child to assert their own boundaries and in our honoring them, even when we have other interests.

Here are 4 types of boundaries, aptly summarized, in the Four Kinds of Boundaries and How To Build Them by Jonice Webb, MD. Dr. Webb provides an awesome visualization exercise to help you strengthen your boundaries.

Physical Boundary: This refers to more than just personal space and close talkers. This boundary can be violated by a person whose touch is unwelcome or who feels threatening. You feel uncomfortable as a result of this boundary reminding you to set limits to keep you safe.

External Boundary: This boundary protects you from injuries and insults coming from others. Examples are criticism and name calling. When that happens this boundary kicks in to help you sort through real feedback and what you should reject.

Internal Boundary: This boundary protects you and others from yourself. It helps you sort through feelings like anger and hurt and decide what to do with those feelings or how to express them.

Temporal Boundary: This boundary helps you sense when you are focusing too much on events and experiences from the past or things in the future. It pulls you back to the present so that old feelings do not emerge when you least expect it. (Dr. Webb references why people blow up over burnt toast.)

Strengthening boundaries is a process. I encourage you to always honor yours and help teach your children these skills early to help keep them safe and secure.