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Helping Teens Learn Boundaries

Kids start to branch out and develop more independence during the teen years. They start hanging out with friends on their own. They start dating. They travel for school events. They start driving. Teens need to learn how to navigate social situations independently, but it’s not always easy.

There are a lot of first-time experiences during the teen years that might leave you concerned as a parent. You want things to go well, but everything won’t be perfect all the time. They’re going to have some friendships dissolve. They probably won’t end up marrying their first sweetheart. And they’re going to spend more time interacting with adults without you there to speak for them.

The teenage years come with awkward moments, and some kids handle them better than others. Learning to set boundaries will help your teen stay true to themselves while navigating the world around them. Some teens struggle to set boundaries and find themselves in trouble. They either have friends who wield influence over them, or they get into situations they don’t know how to exit.

Many teens find themselves in trouble because they aren’t focused on anything in particular. They act on a whim, and they don’t think through the consequences of their actions. If your teen son’s lack of boundaries gets him into trouble at home or school, he could benefit from attending a therapeutic boarding school. Students learn the importance of setting goals and making decisions based on those goals.

Helping teens learn boundaries

Boundaries are a healthy way of defining who we are and ensuring that no one convinces us to do something that doesn’t align with our sense of self.

Setting boundaries during the teen years can be tricky because teenagers are right in the middle of learning who they are. They’re meeting new people, studying new topics, trying new activities, and generally doing many new things. Even their bodies are changing into something new and different. It’s tough to stick to your sense of self when you’re still figuring out who you are.

Creating boundaries with your teen

As the parent of a teenager, you need to help your kid figure out who they are and set boundaries for themself.

Set goals

Boundaries are essentially the guidelines that keep you moving toward your goals. If you step outside the boundaries, you’re no longer moving toward your goals.

Talk to your teen to help them identify some personal goals. Teens are notorious for blowing through conversations without thinking through the answers, so you’ll have to lead the conversation. Dig deeper into their answers to get a real goal.

Keep in mind, teen goals don’t have to be mind-blowing. They aren’t adults yet, so they probably won’t have adult goals.

Their goals could include things like:

  1. Graduate high school

  2. Make the varsity team

  3. Pass all classes

  4. Get a driver’s license

  5. Have money to go out with friends

  6. Have permission to go out with friends

  7. Earn a specific score on the ACT or SAT

Once your teen has some goals in mind, they can start thinking through personal boundaries to help meet those goals. If peers pressure them to do something that will hinder their progress, they can focus on the goal and say no to temptation.

Identify obstacles

As teens branch out in high school, they’ll encounter some people who will don’t have their best interest in mind. These people could be other teens or even adults. Your teenager needs to know how to identify situations that could upend their goals.

Parties can be fun during high school, but parties can turn bad quickly. Make sure your teen knows how to get out of a party situation if they start to feel uncomfortable or feel like they’re being pressured to do something they don’t want to do.

Likewise, teens start to hang out with friends or go on unsupervised dates more frequently once they reach high school. Talk to your teen about how to exit a one-on-one situation with another teenager if it turns uncomfortable or dangerous. They should always be able to leave a dangerous situation.

Emotional boundaries are also important. Your teen might have friends who trash talk them behind their back or even to their face. Help them learn to set boundaries with friends to maintain positive friendships.

Lastly, help your teen learn to navigate boundaries with adults. This can be especially tough at school if they have a teacher who talks down to them. Help your teen learn how to respectfully stand up for themself to adults without getting into extra trouble at school. If the teacher is rude or demeaning to your kid, you may need to call the school to step in. However, your teen needs to learn the skill of standing up for themself to authority figures.

Supporting teen boundaries

There are several things that you can do to support your teen in sticking to their boundaries. Remember, you teenager will probably still get into some sticky situations and might need your help getting back out of them.

  1. Call for help. As your teen starts going on more outings without your supervision, let them know they can call you for help if needed. Your teenager needs to know that you have their back and that you’ll help them get to safety if things go bad.

  2. Stay calm. When standing up for themselves, your teen needs to learn to stay calm and level-headed. Highly emotional moments can lead to regrettable decisions. Encourage them to stay calm at the moment, then reflect on it with them later.

  3. Accept other opinions. Your teen may have set some boundaries, but everyone else might not like those boundaries. Your teen will have to learn how to deal with that. Help them learn how to accept other people’s opinions without taking them too personally. Holding to boundaries won’t always feel fun.

If your teen’s behavior is aimless and acts as if he has no boundaries, he may need further intervention. At Sundance Canyon Academy, we have worked with countless families to instill a sense of ambition in our students. Call us at 866-639-2856 to find out if our school can help your family.

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