In this first of a three – part series of micro episodes, Roy defines and explores what the term “boundaries” means for relationships and its importance to adolescent growth.
Teaching Teens Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries. Hmph. If there’s more popular self help buzzword out there, I’d be hard pressed to find it. Why all the hype about it from shrinks, teachers and self help gurus? And why are they so important for teens?
Boundaries are important because relationships are important. Without physical and emotional boundaries, there is the potential for abuse, including but not limited to physical and emotional abuse.
Boundaries give you a sense of control in your life. While there are many things in life we cannot control, setting boundaries with other teens and adults is an essential part of feeling “in control” of your life. Essentially, boundaries say, this is where you (your opinion, your wishes for me, your desires for me and/or our friendship, your need to control things including me) ends and this is where I begin. I get a “vote” in how I’m treated and how we relate to one another.
Boundaries are the cornerstone of respect. You will struggle to show respect to other people if you are not aware of their boundaries. To show respect, is to acknowledge that this other person, their thoughts, behaviors, desires and feelings are not at your complete disposal. When we learn how to respect others boundaries, we learn how to be civil in an increasingly uncivilized world.
Noticing and respecting boundaries are essential social skills. We are social beings, and as such it is incumbent upon us to learn how to share the space in which we live with others. Teens today are increasingly struggling with social skills. Their proficiency with screens has left them lagging behind in “people” skills, social skills, which are essential to one’s ability to get along with others and in turn experience happiness.
It gives them a sense of responsibility. With younger kids we, adults, mostly parents, teachers and coaches set boundaries for them. We supervise much of their interactions because younger kids don’t know how to set boundaries, often as adults we must do it for them. As kids grow into teens, our message to them is, “it’s time for you to begin taking responsibility over how you treat others and how you allow others to treat you.”