Setting Boundaries Vs. Creating Barriers
Written by Family First Adolescent Services,
in Section Featured Articles
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”
- Brene Brown, PhD
Understanding the difference between setting healthy boundaries and creating emotional barriers is a key component to building successful interpersonal relationships. This is especially true between parents and children. Adolescents who are “coming of age” often struggle with the notion of setting boundaries. In the process of attempting to do so, they often create barriers.
Of course, boundaries and barriers are a two-way street. Parents of teens must do their best to set an example of how to set boundaries. If the parent is accustomed to creating barriers the child will no doubt take notice. This will result in the teen lashing out in various ways. The cycle of dysfunction will be set in motion. It is important to be patient and respectful when mutually setting boundaries with a budding adolescent. As any parent of a teenager can tell you, the transition from dependence to independence can be a rocky road.
What are Emotional Boundaries?
An emotional boundary is a set of ground rules that a person establishes in an effort to maintain their sense of self. Boundaries establish a framework for healthy living by allowing a person to set an expectation for how they want to be treated by others. Boundaries can sometimes hurt other people’s feelings, but this is an unintended consequence of interpersonal relationship.
The point of setting boundaries isn’t to harm others or disappoint those close to us - it is to take ownership of what is deeply personal to us. Boundaries are healthy, proactive, functional, and open. They are a necessary component in all healthy relationships, and therefore, should be respected and encouraged. Even when it’s difficult.
What are Emotional Barriers?
Emotional barriers happen when people close themselves off to those around them. Barriers stem from fear and defensiveness. Whereas emotional boundaries establish rapport and open lines of effective communication, barriers obliterate any chance of this happening.
Adolescents are far more likely to engage in risky behaviors when they are in a dysfunctional environment that fosters barriers. Risky behavior can take on many forms. Among these behaviors is the experimentation with drugs or alcohol abuse. The brain is not yet fully developed during adolescence - and neither is emotional maturity. This all too often leads to the teen building a dependence on substances as a coping mechanism which stems from a feeling of being closed off.
Emotional barriers can shadow a person throughout their lifetime if efforts are not made to the contrary. Barriers inhibit healthy living. For this reason, it is essential that parents teach their children the difference between setting healthy emotional boundaries and creating unhealthy emotional barriers.
The habits we learn in our formative years become harder and harder to shake as time moves forward. Most parents do their best to love their children and raise them to the best of their abilities. However, a person can’t give what they don’t have. The cyclical nature of dysfunction is passed down from generation to generation.
If you think you may have unknowingly passed the cycle of dysfunction or addiction on to your teenager, Family First Adolescent Services is here to help. We specialize in treating teens who suffer from drug addiction, alcohol addiction, mood disorders, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Our treatment plans offer solutions for the whole family so that healing can happen from the ground up.