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How to Set Boundaries With Your Family Members

As we age, it might become increasingly difficult to manage our relationships. Having work relationships, children, friends and other family members in your life complicates how we communicate. Relationships with family members are especially crucial to our well-being, however, often times improper boundary setting leads to upset feelings and misunderstandings in families. For your general health and anxiety management, it is important to set proper boundaries for yourself, especially when it comes to family. Communicating your wants and needs to your loved ones can prove difficult, but it is essential for living a healthy and successful life.

Understand What Boundaries Are

The first step to setting proper boundaries is knowing what your boundaries are. Knowing what makes your uncomfortable, exhausts you, or pushes your limits is important.

Here are some tips for figuring out your boundaries:

  1. Mentally “check in” with yourself: In a moment that makes your unhappy, mentally check in, walk away for a moment, or ask politely to be left alone. Step away mentally or physically if you can and check in. Why does this bother you? Is it situational, or does your loved one behave in such a way that your values are constantly being disrupted? Being in tune with your intuition will help you properly guide your life.
  2. Write a list of core values: It’s important to know what your value most in this world. Knowing your core values makes it easier to set boundaries later on. Writing them down cements them in your mind and can serve as a reminder when you feel your life is disrupted.
  3. Listen to your “gut”: As we age, our “gut” or intuition becomes stronger. We sometimes know without all the facts what is right for us. Listen to what your body says yes or no to. Often times your intuition knows exactly what we want or need, or what will cause us great emotional harm.

Knowing when to say NO to a loved one

It is easy to fall into the trap of always saying yes to someone you love. You might be afraid to disappoint someone or cause hurt feelings. However, saying no to something that crosses your boundaries is often times more important that satisfying that person’s desires. An equal relationship is one that balances both person’s needs.

Here are some polite ways to say no to a commitment or a request:

  1. Not right now: Sometimes it’s not that you can’t do something or don’t want to, it’s that it isn’t the right time for you. You have your own priorities and schedule and it’s important to acknowledge that first before making a commitment to someone else’s needs.
  2. I don’t feel comfortable doing that: This is a clear way to say no while also acknowledging your feelings. If the person is upset that you feel uncomfortable it is no longer your responsibility to make them feel better or say yes. They know your boundary and their reaction is their responsibility.
  3. No thank you/No: A clear and simple no is hard to argue with. It might shock your loved ones, but you have to keep in mind that your values and boundaries must come first. Everything else will follow, and some things are simply not on your list.

Learn How to Deal with the Reactions of Others

One of the most challenging things about asserting boundaries is how the person will react. Setting up a boundary is like drawing a line in the sand. A person who respects you won’t cross it, but that doesn’t mean they will always be happy about it. Learning how to cope with negative reactions to your boundaries is a crucial habit and skill to build. The most challenging part with family is that you live with them. This means you might have to constantly reassert your boundaries. With a friend or a coworker, it’s easier to walk away, but when living with someone, it’s harder to constantly deal with the reactions of your loved ones, as they are often in your space.

Here are some tips for dealing with the reactions of others:

  1. Remember your feelings matter: Acknowledging yourself first and foremost is crucial for life success and stress management. When we are aligned with ourselves first, everything else follows. Remember to put yourself first, even if it upsets others.
  2. Practice mindful communication techniques: There are several techniques therapists use to help family members communicate, especially when fighting. After asserting boundaries, it’s important to acknowledge the other person’s feelings without forgetting your own. Both parties should be listened to, but your boundary should not go ignored.
  3. Meditate or practice self care: After breaking the news to a family member that you don’t want to comply with their will, it might cause disruption, arguments, or even abuse. It is important if possible to escape to a safe space and practice self care after this occurs. Meditation and self care, such as journaling, can be effective anxiety relief.
  4. Know you can’t make everyone happy: People pleasing can cause depression and anxiety for the pleaser. Creating a happy, successful life for yourself sometimes means acknowledging that not everyone will be happy with your choices, but they will have to simply live with it.

Setting Boundaries is Mature Behavior

It is our responsibility as adults to respect ourselves enough to know what we can or can’t tolerate. This is why healthy adults live more for themselves, and less in fear of other’s expectations or desires. The most rewarding thing about setting boundaries with family members is that we learn how to treat each other well, and you teach others how to treat you by how you treat yourself. Being strong minded and a leader of your own life will often inspire others to do the same.