By: Bailey McAdams, M.Ed., LPC
As we approach Valentine’s Day, we generally think of our loved ones and begin our annual stress fest of what to buy them to “show our love.” We often neglect to think of the health and well-being of the relationships themselves. As a therapist that works with all ages, I am reminded of the benefits of learning healthy relationship boundaries and when to identify the unhealthy ones at the earliest ages. As soon as we begin to develop romantic relationships and attachments with others, we should also be developing our awareness of healthy boundaries. As teens, we are often so caught up in the butterflies and fireworks that we can easily overlook some unhealthy red flags. I write this particular blog more for you parents of teens in hopes that you may educate them on healthy boundaries and have early interventions for the more concerning red flags the healthy steps to take.
Healthy boundaries to talk to your teens about:
- Highlight the role of respect. For this particular generation respect should occur in the way that we speak to one another, the way we respond to physical interaction, how we speak ABOUT one another, and probably most importantly how we interact on social media or via text. For example, someone who requests inappropriate pictures is not demonstrating healthy respect for the other individual. Parents: It is important to talk through with your teen appropriate ways to handle when respect has not been shown. Be a good listener and supporter, but ultimately help them to work through.
- Teach your teen to label their feelings. Growing up talking about your feelings at home promotes the same behavior outside of the home. Learning that it is okay to have feelings and that they will be supported and heard is vital to the health of any relationship.
- Encourage your teen to pay attention to their instincts. If you feel that something isn’t quite right, odds are it isn’t. As adults, we may call these “red flags.” Too often we ignore red flags in an effort to “make it work” often to our detriment.
- Encourage your teen to own their own “stuff.” All too often we may get sucked into the drama and lives of others and make our decisions solely based upon the impact of the other person. While this is thoughtful, we are forgetting to think of one person… ourselves! This is not selfish; this is setting a healthy boundary. Sometimes we may do something that feels like too much for us to handle in an effort to take care of someone else. When we take care of others in place of ourselves, it may leave us feeling resentful or as though our feelings are not important.
- Remember we train others how to treat us. I probably say this daily in my counseling sessions with people of all ages. This means if you have boundaries, people will learn that you do and are not as likely to take advantage of us. Also, it reminds us to listen to the boundaries of others. How can we ask for something we are not also willing to provide?
- Parents: You are their example! Try to practice these tips yourself and they will learn from you.
Resources to check out: www.loveisrespect.org and https://www.breakthecycle.org/blog/setting-boundaries-relationship