Setting Healthy Boundaries with Family Members
Updated: Dec 8, 2021
Setting healthy boundaries with family members doesn’t necessarily mean your family members are toxic. Oftentimes, boundaries are roadmaps for navigating through a relationship so that toxicity doesn’t build up.
Setting limits with family members is how you communicate your needs to them and shows them you aren’t afraid to set boundaries so you can maintain your well-being. Healthy family boundaries create a calmer, more stable long-lasting family dynamic.
Boundaries are Good for Family Relationships
When you set clear boundaries, even if it’s uncomfortable for you and probably your family members, it’s actually great for your relationships. Your family will know your personal guidelines and how you want to be treated.
If they push your boundaries, and display unwanted behaviors, that’s on them. You did your part; made them aware of what you find acceptable treatment towards you, and the consequences if they ignore your boundaries.
How to Set Healthy Family Boundaries
Healthy families are made up of people who understand their responsibilities within the family infrastructure. Establishing your rules of engagement within the family means you’re doing your part to provide a balanced and safe environment. You may be the only one who takes the first step to set family relational boundaries, and it may stir some feathers. Do it anyway.
It’s inevitable that your family will push back, so here’s a few tips to get through the conversations that need to be had.
Fully accept that your needs are important!
Try not to be so caught up in hurting other people’s feelings. Your needs are important too! It can be tough to truly take care of yourself if you are ignoring your needs regularly. Boundaries are put in place to help you continue your relationships, but be prepared to lose some people in this process. People, in general, don’t like rules. They also get defensive when presented with another person’s needs.
Your needs are important, so the faster you fully accept this, the faster you can have the ‘boundaries chat’ with your family members that need the chat. To improve your life, you have to have hard conversations.
Be Kind, but also be FIRM
Have a kind heart when approaching these boundary conversations. If you bring anger and become defensive during the interaction, you’ll probably end up bringing out those same things in your family member. Speak calmly. Don’t accuse anyone of anything. However, make sure you make yourself heard.
Know that you may have to Walk Away
If you approach the conversation with kindness, you may still end up upsetting your family member. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into an argument. If you feel yourself starting to want to defend yourself, get up and leave. Walk away. You can choose to try again at a later time, or simply limit interactions with the family member who doesn’t respect your boundaries. Learn that it’s okay to say no to spending time with people who continually disrespect you in the same ways.
Think of Boundaries as Your Friends
At some point in time, setting boundaries became associated with something bad. Maybe some rule-breaker who loved to walk all over people started telling people that anyone setting boundaries was trying to control other people. Who knows?
What we all need to start believing is that boundaries are our friends. They create a safe space for everyone to frolic and play in. When each of us knows what upsets our family members, we can truly enjoy each others’ presence. Family functions will be enjoyable, and family dysfunction will begin to dissipate. Mutual respect tends to result in happier family dynamics.
There’s always “that one”
Even after setting family boundaries, and freely discussing what each family member needs in order to feel seen, heard, and respected - there’s always going to be that one who stomps through life offending everyone because they know exactly what buttons to push. I mean, boundaries kind of give them a manual to do so, right?
When this happens, you may need a bit of a mental reboot with a professional. And you know what? Even if everyone’s respecting your boundaries, it’s perfectly normal to want to talk to a professional about your life, your family, and more. That’s what I’m here for!