Codependency and Enablers: How to Help Your Kids Learn Proper Boundaries

As a parent, you need to create boundaries for you and your child in order to support their growth as a young adult. The boundary line can be fuzzy and hard to follow—not just for you, but for everyone. While there is room for slip-ups and learning from mistakes, it is also necessary to establish visible boundaries that everyone—you, your child and the rest of your family—can easily follow.

Know What Boundaries You Need

Understanding the need for your own boundaries as a parent and person will make it easier for you to create boundaries with your teen. Some boundaries may be obvious to you, like no hitting, screaming or fighting. But others can be harder to discover, such as TV time, helping with chores or how many times a week you have family dinners.

Take a Step Back

Your teen has a lot going on with school, homework, dance classes, soccer practices and recitals. It can be easy for parents to take on extra duties to help their kids out when they seem stressed or overworked or if you as a parent are getting anxious for them. This is when you should consider taking a step back. We never want our children to feel unsupported—and we should always support them—however, they do need to learn to handle their own responsibilities. If they are feeling overwhelmed because they chose to hang out with friends after school instead of doing their homework, they are responsible for their decision.

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Image Chris JL

Keep Your Feelings As Your Own

Parents can empathize excessively with their teen if something has gone awry, and it is easy to project your own feelings onto your child in the heat of the moment. But it’s important to let them explore their own feelings and how different situations make them feel and react. If something they’ve told you makes you angry, say, “That makes me feel angry because…,” and explain your feelings. Don’t expect or tell your child to feel a certain way about something; let them learn for themselves.

Respect Their Boundaries

If you want your child to respect the boundaries you set in place, you also need to respect theirs. Talk to your teen about your expectations and listen to what theirs are. This can develop into a healthy conversation about what you need from each other and what you should expect to see in return. This is a great way to etch out boundaries and will help you clearly distinguish when they are being crossed in the future.

Respecting boundaries also means respecting your child. If there is mutual respect in your household, communication lines will open, creating less of a chance for boundaries to be crossed.

Feature image Carmen Jost