Setting Boundaries With Family

Boundaries are something a lot of people struggle with, especially with their family members. Some people are raised to bend over backward for family and to help family regardless of how it may impact them. Family dynamics can be tricky. We don’t get to choose our family, but we can teach them how to engage with us by setting boundaries. Boundaries are rules and guidelines we create to teach others how to treat us. A lot of times, we may forget that we can teach our family how to treat us, especially in adulthood. Setting boundaries is an effective way to maintain healthy relationships with family members. From parents to siblings, uncles, aunties, third cousins twice removed, etc., knowing how to set boundaries with family is something we should all learn how to do. 

Examples of Unhealthy Boundaries With Family 

Identifying unhealthy boundaries can help you reset relationships by becoming aware of what you no longer want to be a common practice in the relationship. Some examples of unhealthy boundaries are an invasion of privacy, which could look like your family member reading your text message or emails, entering your room without your permission, or even opening your mail. Poor communication is another example of an unhealthy boundary. Poor communication can include when a family member speaks to you in a hostile, dismissive or disrespectful way. Another unhealthy boundary is a family member trying to control your life. A family member may try to force you into a specific career path while disregarding your wants and needs, controlling who you hang out with, trying to make other decisions for your life, and becoming upset or lashing out when you disagree. As a child, our family members may engage in these behaviors, but that does not mean it needs to continue into adulthood. Sometimes, unhealthy boundaries start in childhood and continue into adulthood because we are unaware that we can change the guidelines of a relationship. 

Examples of Healthy Boundaries With Family 

Healthy family boundaries include independence, effective communication, and accountability. Examples of healthy boundaries within a family dynamic can consist of time to yourself without judgment, freedom to change your mind, the ability to say no, prioritizing your needs first, the

ability to share your feelings without being judged or dismissed, your own identity, respect for your experience and perspective, and your private information remaining private. 

How to set Healthy Boundaries With Family 

When setting boundaries, you want to remember you have the right to change your mind and reestablish boundaries if needed. Many times within families, because people are used to the current dynamics, they may be resistant to change. The first step to establishing boundaries within your family is identifying the current dynamics within your family relationships that you do not want to continue. The next step is considering what needs to change regarding the current familial relationship—after that, communicate your boundaries effectively. For example, if you do not like how your sibling may be speaking to you, it would be helpful to set aside time to address this with your sibling. It would be wise to use Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (D.B.T.) GIVE or FAST skill when communicating with your family member. The GIVE skill encourages communication using a Gentle manner, acting Interested, being Validating and having an Easy manner. The FAST skill highlights being Fair, no Apologies, sticking to Values, being Truthful. Depending on the situation and your current relationship with the person, either of these skills can be helpful. The key when establishing familial boundaries is remembering that your needs and feelings are important. Setting boundaries can be very hard, but we can do hard things.

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