family fun

Strengthening Families by Using Boundaries

family funstrengthening family

——family boundaries

When we think of the word boundaries, we often think of fences, ropes, or maybe even boundaries in sports such as "out of bounds". In families, although we might have a fence around our homes, or instruct our children to not go past the sidewalk, our family boundaries are usually not visual, or tangible.

Regardless of if we can see them or not, healthy families have boundaries that regulate the flow and transfer of information in and out of the family system. Boundaries impact how families function and define who's responsible for what, how children and parents interact, and how the family relates with the world around them.

Here are three things to consider when it comes to your family's boundaries.

Boundaries Should Be Clear—Healthy families have clear boundaries between parents and children (we don't mix up the roles, tell our children too much information, or give them adult responsibilities before they are ready), create structure and routine (bedtimes, mealtimes, and schedules), and provide a sense of predictability that brings safety and security to a home. Clear boundaries also have consequences that are reasonable and enforced. In a healthy family, all family members know and understand the boundaries. That way when consequences are enforced, no one is surprised by the outcome.

Boundaries Should Be Flexible—We have to be accepting of the fact that our boundaries need to change over time. For example, right now our children are fairly young, and go to bed at 7pm. If we continue to enforce this boundary when they are 18, they are going to revolt. Same with the boundaries we have around what we talk about in our home. Right now there are many conversations that are off limits because our children are not old enough to have the discussion. (Think birds and bees). But... if my husband and I don't have these conversations eventually, we are doing our children a disservice.

Boundaries Need To Be Evaluated—It is important as parents and families to evaluate our family boundaries. One of the best ways is to observe and listen to our family members. They are a very good gauge. For example, when our son was 9 he asked if he could talk to my husband and me, "in private". We set aside a time and sat down together. At the time, he had a bedtime of 7:00. He told us that he was "getting older" and felt that he needed a later bedtime. He pleaded his case and then waited for our response. It caused us to revisit this boundary and reevaluate. Our son was right. He was old enough to stay up later and we made some changes. We can take notes from the boundaries that are working and those that are not to help us evaluate and then modify for optimal family success.  

High functioning families are the ones that have clear boundaries. They allow for development of family members that is age appropriate , while continuing to promote and strengthen the family unity. Take a few minutes on a regular basis to assess your family's boundaries for optimal family functioning.

How often do you assess your family's boundaries?

Boundaries Download

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Printable to help your family establish family boundaries.

Looking for a little help establishing new boundaries in your family? Download the "Boundaries Printable" here. It is a great way to strengthen your family system.

To access all of the Super Hero Family eBooks, including the Boundaries eBook, click here.

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Heather Johnson, M.S., teaches students the principles behind successful families at Brigham Young University. You can find her online at FamilyVolley.com, and connect with her on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.  
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