All humans need boundaries. They are an instrumental part of recovering from anything. Boundaries can often be seen as limitations, but they are so much more than that. Boundaries provide structure and guidance for ourselves, our relationships and how to maintain balance in our lives. They are best guided by values. That can become complicated with youth due to brain development, and values that are related to social inclusion, and the influences of social media. Adolescents are at a stage of development where they instinctually move towards individuating, while much of their lives are determined by parents and the expectations of schooling. Many teenagers are not learning to ask themselves about their values, what they want in life, and how their current actions are working towards or against that vision.
Instead of boundaries being defined by saying “no”, the limits we learn to set on ourselves should be about saying no to the things that prevent heading towards what someone is saying “yes” to. Determining what you are saying “no” to from designing what you want is about feeling empowered to design your life and head towards the people and situations that are important.
There are two types of boundaries – personal and interpersonal.
Personal boundaries: are the limits we set for ourselves. They are based on our own needs, beliefs and values.
Interpersonal boundaries: are the limits we set in our relationships with others. They are based on mutual respect and are necessary for healthy relationships.
It is important to learn how to set both personal and interpersonal boundaries. Learning how to do so requires thoughtful questions, introspection and working towards assertive communication. As an example, if anyone wants to start heading towards recovery there are going to be people, places, situations, and activities that may no longer be aligned with that lifestyle change. Knowing your “why” is important for motivation in making changes and setting boundaries. Does heading towards recovery represent improving health, repairing damaged trust in relationships, being more focused on goals in work/school etc.
If you’re not sure where to start, start with your values. What’s important to you? What do you want more of in your life? Once you have a clear idea of your values, you can start setting boundaries that will help you live a life that’s in line with those values. And remember, it’s okay to change your boundaries.
Additional questions to ask:
Why are you looking to make changes in your life?
What does the change mean to you, and what do you want it to represent in your life?
In order to head towards what you want, what changes do you need to make?
Are there any conversations you need to have with other people involved?
At Avanti Behavioral Health we want adolescents to feel empowered by contemplating what boundaries they may be in need of, and learning how to effectively communicate those boundaries from a positive perspective of what they want, rather than just knowing what they don’t want. They may walk in the door of our facility because they “don’t want” to lose freedoms, or to have consequences from drinking and using, but our goal is to help them to recognize what they “do want” to come from their treatment and participation, and to be an active participant in heading towards the value they want to incorporate in their lives.