Spring is quickly approaching and I’m feeling like the holidays are long past. While I love a good break from school and work, I love getting back into a routine. That’s partly because I love boundaries. I work better with boundaries. I’m a better friend when I have boundaries and I appreciate others who hold good boundaries too. I know this about myself because I have anxiety and knowing what to expect makes me feel better. I’m seeing many kids in my practice right now with anxiety. Some parents make the mistake of becoming too lax with anxious kids, while I reinforce making sure that parents set healthy limits and boundaries with all kids, especially anxious kids, who need it the most.
So, what does it look like for a parent to set healthy boundaries? Let’s break it down:
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. When you say you will be there at pickup, do it. When someone asks you to help and you are overwhelmed, say you can’t. Be honest with yourself and your family about what you need. Kids need to know that they can rely on their grownups.
- Avoid overextending yourself. If you you able to help at school that’s great. Help when you can, but not when you can’t. Don’t feel pressured to overextend yourself, teach your children that boundaries are an important part of health.
- You are not your child’s friend. I get burned on this one sometimes, because the idea of being your kid’s friend can sound cool. Children get one (set/single) parent and many friends. They don’t need more friends. They need a strong parent who sets boundaries and limits, encourages them and sits with them when they fall. Which leads me to my next point….
- Avoid oversharing with your children. Giving age-appropriate information to our children is really important. Telling them that a family member is sick or dying. Sharing information that may hurt them or make them sad. Giving them consequences for breaking a family rule. Most of these situations cause parents to have discomfort and the response is usually over-sharing or under-sharing. Make sure to give them enough information in age-appropriate terms so that they feel like they understand. Let them ask questions.
- Assess then re-assess. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back when things are going well, when you planned well and showed up for yourself and others. Don’t be critical when things go wrong but help yourself understand where things went off kilter and how to get back on track. This is a process kids should get comfortable with early in life!
As always, if things with your child seem a little off, check in with a local therapist to see if your child might benefit from some support. The Del Ray Wellness District is full of wonderful therapists who are here to serve your family. I host two groups on a consistent basis: confidence for girls ages 8-12 and worried kids ages 7-9 & 10-12. More information can be found here: www.wonderologie.com/groups