Start Conversations About Boundary Setting Early
Teaching the young people in your life to proactively set boundaries across their personal relationships is a skill that they will use for the rest of their life. And you can use back-to-school planning as an opportunity to open up the conversation.
Boundaries are created to help folks maintain healthy, happy relationships—no matter the context. Setting clear boundaries (and sticking to them) sets everyone up for success and is a sign that the relationship is valued on both sides. And no matter their age, the young folks in your life will benefit from understanding how to create their own boundaries and regularly communicate them.
One of the easiest ways to explain boundaries with a child with physical touch. For example, although it’s often expected, assure them that they don’t have to hug/kiss relatives if they don’t want to. With many kids heading back to in-person school, it’s important that your young person has the tools they need to speak up about who they want in their personal space. Conversely, if you have an overly affectionate child that hugs/kisses everyone, use it as an opportunity to explain that you need consent to touch someone else. Whether they are interacting with family, friends, or strangers, knowing that they are in charge of who touches them (and who they touch) will empower your children.
Emotional boundaries are necessary, too! Just because your young person can talk to someone 24/7, doesn’t mean they have to. Whether it’s a budding crush or a friendship, encourage your young person to speak up about what they are comfortable with. Also let them know that it’s completely okay if they feel uncomfortable talking about certain subjects or don’t have the emotional capacity to handle something heavy from another person. These skills may take time to develop but are so worth it for your young person’s mental well-being.
Every relationship will have its own boundaries. As your young person grows and learns, the boundaries they set may too. That’s why these types of discussions about bodies and relationships should be an ongoing process between you and the young ones you care about.
Parents and champions are the #1 resource young people look to for information on these topics. By serving as your young person’s point of support, you’re helping them build a foundation for healthy relationships for years to come! This year’s back-to-school season may look a lot different than years past, but you can use this time as an opportunity to start the conversations that will help them feel safe and comfortable. It’s also important to note that learning to set their own boundaries in friendships can also empower your young person when they start dating and become sexually active.