Categories
Adolescence Communication Mental Health Parenting Recovery Therapy Trauma

Healthy Boundaries Make for Healthy Teens

© sarit z rogers
© sarit z rogers

What steps can you take to ensure that you aren’t in violation of someone’s boundaries? For example, not everyone enjoys being hugged, nor is it always appropriate to express that level of touch. From the perspective of a teacher or a therapist, one must understand the innate power differential that exists between teacher and student or therapist and client. One is looking to the other for advice and pedagogic elucidation, and one is holding the power to elicit such information. We therefore need to be thoughtful in our approach to employing touch in these situations.

 

In a therapeutic environment such as Visions, we address more than substance abuse and mental illness; we are facilitating the excavation of trauma and creating safe boundaries. It’s important to maintain awareness around our own sense of boundaries and how execute them. Asking ourselves these questions and contemplating the answers through talking to our peers and writing them out will help you discern where you may need some work, and where you are strongest:

 

  1. What does it mean to set boundaries?
  2. Is it hard to say “no”? If so, what does saying “no” feel like?
  3. How do I feel when my boundaries are crossed?
  4. What is my reaction internally and externally?
  5. Am I afraid to set boundaries? Why?
  6. What is my history around setting boundaries?

 

As clinicians and teachers, it’s imperative that we know and understand where our weak spots are so we can work on them. For some people, it’s not uncommon to wait until someone pushes us to our edge before we set a limit. The desire to please others or to be liked plays a part here, and our own backgrounds and upbringing will also effect how we interact with others. Perhaps we come from a family where hugging and touch is part of the norm. It may be natural for us to reach out and hug someone when they are suffering, but it’s not always appropriate.

 

Hugging a client may be a violation of a boundary, but if the client has been traumatized in some way, they may not know how to set that boundary. Likewise, if a client persistently tries to hug you, you have to maintain a firm boundary so they learn to understand what is and what is not appropriate. I was volunteering at my son’s school recently, and a kid came up and hugged me, not wanting to let go. It was a child I don’t know and it was a clear violation of my boundaries and the school’s rules. I gently moved away and held a boundary with this child until he moved on. Teens look to us as examples to learn from and to emulate. If we don’t show strong, safe boundaries, they won’t be able to either. Understand that the boundaries we create encourage freedom to be who you are while creating a safe container for healing and recovery.

Respecting boundaries applies to parents too. If the family dynamic has been compromised, parents have to work to rebuild a healthy and safe family structure. Creating solid boundaries is key in that process. Adolescents love to push buttons and stretch boundaries; they are smack dab in the center of their individuation process. That doesn’t mean you, the parent, have to give in. Remember: “No” is a complete sentence, and when it’s said with certainty and conviction, it makes all the difference. A wishy-washy, non-committal “no” may as well be a “maybe” or a “yes.” Poor limits leave room for negotiation where there shouldn’t be.

We all have a part to play in creating safe limits whether we are parents, teachers, or clinicians. Kids, in their infinite wisdom and testing behaviors, demand strong limits, whether they admit it or not. Boundaries create safety. They provide defined parameters in which to develop and grow. So as much as a teen may push, inside, they really do respect a firm “No” and a defined environment.

Categories
Recovery Self-Care Service

Being of Service: Self-Care is Still Imperative

Boundary (Photo credit: castle79)

When being of service becomes a source of obligation and stress, you’re not really being of service to anyone. If anything, you are causing harm to yourself and denigrating the purpose of service work. The steps are in order for a reason, right? Learning to love ourselves before we can wholeheartedly love others has to become part of the cornerstone of our recovery. We do the steps and “leave no stone unturned,” looking at our actions, the actions of others, our responses to them, how they effect us, how we react, and so on. We uncover and discover as much as we can, including some things that catch us by surprise. When we are brand new, the familiar adage, “fake it till you make it,” can certainly be applicable especially when you simply need to get out of yourself by being of service. At the same time, if you find that you have dedicated yourself to helping others and “faking it” to the extent that you, yourself, are being neglected, it’s time to pause.

 

As much as we ran away from ourselves via drugs, alcohol, food, sex, video games, social media, we can also do the same thing in recovery by overextending ourselves in our service work. We can do too much and place ourselves at great risk for doing too little for ourselves. At some point, we have to stop and feel the feelings of whatever it is we are trying to escape. We are, as they say, “as sick as our secrets.” Within each of us in recovery potentially lies the hurt child seeking solace, safety, love, and protection. As we begin to be of service to ourselves, we can be of service to that side of us that is hurting and hiding in the darkness. We can ultimately learn to be gentle with ourselves , which will allow us to be gentle with others.

How do we do this?

  • Ask for help.
  • Get a sponsor
  • Find a therapist
  • Create a network of other people in recovery with whom you can relate, be honest, and have sustained emotional safety. (Fellowship)

Set healthy Boundaries.

Physical and emotional: Think about boundaries as a “property line.” Read what Positively Positive has to say about this. It’s fantastic.

Creating healthy boundaries will help you set guidelines for people around you that tell them what is acceptable to you and what is not. There are physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, both different but both invaluable to self-esteem building and self-care. You don’t have to agree with everyone or have him or her agree with you to be liked.

Do the work

  • Work the steps.
  • Start a journal.
  • Go to meetings
  • Take commitments
  • Do the deep, therapeutic work provided by your therapist.

Being of service is our ultimate goal. We need to be able to give back what has been so freely given to us. That is step 12, after all. In the process, however, we must maintain healthy boundaries and a sense of self-care.  Remember, it’s ok not to be ok sometimes, however it’s not ok if we put on our trainers and run from our feelings. Allow someone to be of service to you. You deserve it just as much as the next person.