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Do Families Need Boundaries? What are boundaries and how to build healthy boundaries.

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“I just don’t seem to have enough time!” If you have been feeling this way, it may be a good idea to hit the pause button and re-examine your boundaries. Personal boundaries are the limits we set for ourselves within a relationship. Someone with a healthy boundary can say “no” to others where needed, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to build close relationships. A person who keeps others at a distance emotionally or physically may have rigid boundaries. Lastly, someone who tends to get too involved with others has porous boundaries, and they typically find themselves enmeshed in relationships. (Therapist Aid LLC, 2016)

The following is a checklist of common traits of rigid, porous, and healthy boundaries:

Rigid boundaries

Porous Boundaries

Healthy Boundaries

Avoid intimacy and close relationships

Overshares personal information

Values own opinions

Unlikely to ask for help

Difficulty saying “no” to the request of others

Doesn’t compromise values for others

Has few close relationships

Over-involved with other’s problems

Shares personal information appropriately (i.e., does not over or under- share)

Very protective of personal information

Dependent on the opinions of others

Knows personal wants and needs and can communicate them

May seem detached, even with romantic partners

Accepting abuse and disrespect

Accepting when others say “no” to them

Keeps others at a distance to avoid the possibility of rejection

Fears rejection if they do not comply with others

Secure in who they are and what they stand for

(Source: Therapist Aid, 2016)

Most people have different boundary types for different settings – one may have healthy boundaries at work, porous boundaries in romantic relationships, and a mix of all three types with their family. But we all need healthy boundaries. Families need boundaries to maintain healthy relationships and promote personal growth and development. Boundaries are like invisible lines that help us define what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and they create a sense of safety and security in our relationships.  On the other hand, when someone has very strict and inflexible boundaries, it often leads to isolation and difficulty forming relationships. This can manifest as someone who refuses to compromise or change their schedule for others.

Healthy boundaries can also prevent conflicts and resentment within the family and promote a more positive and respectful dynamic. Remember that it’s okay to adjust your boundaries as you grow and change, and to communicate those changes with your family. By prioritizing your own well-being and communicating your needs clearly, you can create a happier and healthier family environment for everyone involved.

Here are some tips on how to build healthy boundaries within your family:

  1. Identify your personal boundaries: Take some time to think about what is important to you and what your limits are. For example, you may not feel comfortable discussing certain topics, or you may need some alone time to recharge. Once you have a clear understanding of your own boundaries, it will be easier to communicate them to your family.

  2. Communicate your boundaries clearly: Be open and honest with your family members about your boundaries. Use “I” statements to express your needs and avoid blaming or criticizing others. For example, say, “I need some alone time right now” instead of “You’re always bothering me.”

  3. Respect other people’s boundaries: Just as you want others to respect your boundaries, it’s important to respect the boundaries of your family members. Listen to their needs and preferences and avoid pressuring them to do uncomfortable things.

  4. Be consistent: Once you’ve established your boundaries, stick to them. Consistency is key to building healthy boundaries and creating a sense of safety in your relationships.

  5. Practice self-care: Taking care of your own physical and emotional needs is an important part of building healthy boundaries. Make sure to prioritize activities that help you feel refreshed and rejuvenated, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time in nature.

Remember, building healthy boundaries takes time and practice, but it’s worth the effort. Establishing clear boundaries for yourself and within your family can improve your well-being, promote positive relationships and support each other’s personal growth and development.

Written By: Poh Ee Lyn, Senior Social Worker, Fei Yue Community Services


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  2. Center for Young Women’s Health. (2016). Setting Boundaries with Family Members. Boston Children’s Hospital. https://youngwomenshealth.org/2016/02/24/setting-boundaries-with-family-members/

  3. Steward, S. M., & Steward, D. S. (2018). Communicating boundaries: How and when to draw the line. Journal of Family Strengths, 18(1), 1-9. https://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1126&context=jfs

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  6. Oaklander, M. (2017). The importance of setting boundaries for peaceful and productive relationships. Time. https://time.com/4827452/the-importance-of-setting-boundaries-for-peaceful-and-productive-relationships/

  7. Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years. (2016). Boundaries: Sticking to them. https://www.pacey.org.uk/content.aspx?MenuId=368

  8. National Institute of Mental Health. (2017). Taking care of your emotional health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/taking-care-of-your-emotional-health/index.shtml

  9. Segal, J., Robinson, L., & Smith, M. (2021). Self-care for stress management. HelpGuide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm

  10. Therapist Aid LLC. (2016). What are Personal Boundaries . Retrieved from https://uhs.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/relationships_personal_boundaries.pdf