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What Are Boundaries And Why We Need To Set Them

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Parent Coach for Moms of Teens: Fern Weis

Parents are notorious for not being able to set and follow through on boundaries. I was (and still am on occasion) am one of those parents.

There’s a cultural norm that still exists, usually applied to moms (no matter how much we protest that things have changed).

I believed it, too: be always available, put the needs of others first, and remain selfless. Consequently, the ‘good mother’ ignores her needs, loses her identity, and has trouble setting any boundaries. That’s not healthy for anyone.

Here Is What I Now Know About Boundaries:

A boundary usually involves some kind of separation”

A boundary usually involves some kind of separation, but it doesn’t mean you cut off connection. In the physical world a boundary can be a wall, a river, or a fence. They keep people in one place or out of another.

Parents tend to have difficulty creating boundaries with their children. The stakes are high and separation is a struggle, if not impossible.

In relationships, a boundary is something you do to protect yourself: 

4 Things A Boundary Can Help With:

  1. to be clear about what is okay and not okay for you
  2. to be honest about what you will and will not tolerate 
  3. to respect and tend to your needs 
  4. to help others know what to expect

5 Things A Boundary Can Not Provide:

  1. the total separation of a brick wall
  2. an ultimatum 
  3. punishment or retribution
  4. disrespect
  5. judgment

(On rare occasions, a boundary means cutting off contact with someone you love. It is a painful decision to love them from a distance because being in proximity is destroying your peace of mind and likely your health.)

Here Are The Five Things I’ve Learned (and, am still learning) About Boundaries:

When I set a boundary, it’s for me.”

  1. Not everything is my business or my concern.
  2. I have just as much right to nurture myself and my dreams as anyone else.
  3. My children get a skewed view of life and relationships when there are no boundaries.
  4. I don’t want to be angry and resentful.
  5. I am the only one who can truly speak up for me.

When I set a boundary, it’s for me. While it’s sometimes difficult to do, it’s all about me, not them. I am not a victim, nor am I powerless (even if it feels that way).

I script and rehearse it, eliminating emotion. I’m as neutral and respectful as possible. Why? Because the loving connection with my family members is precious. I want to be heard without alienating them.

Is my delivery always successful? Can I control their reactions? Of course not, but I do the best I can to maintain trust and connection. No brick walls if I can help it. A brick wall is meant to keep others away from us. That’s the opposite of what we desire. We want just enough distance to allow each of us the chance to become our best selves.

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Fern Weis

About the Author:

Fern Weis is a Parent Empowerment Coach for Moms of Teens and a Family Recovery Coach. She’s also a wife, former middle school teacher, and the parent of two adult children who taught her more about herself than she ever could have imagined.  

Fern partners with moms of teens and young adults, privately and in groups. She helps them grow their confidence to build strong relationships and emotionally healthier kids who become successful adults. She knows first-hand that when parents do the work, the possibilities for change are limitless; that it’s never too late to start; and you don’t have to do it alone. Learn more about Fern at www.fernweis.com.