Marvin G. Knittel Ed.D.

How to Help a Friend

How to Create a Set of Family Boundaries

Well-adjusted children come from homes with clearly established boundaries.

Posted Apr 20, 2016

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How to Create A Set of Family      Boundaries.  Well-adjusted children come from homes with clearly established boundaries.  The happiest children live in households where rules and boundaries are clearly enforced with love and respect.

BOUNDARIES:  I found a plethora of research on family boundaries.  The following are some of the more important points of agreement: 

  • Highly functioning families have clearly defined boundaries agreed upon by the family members.
  • Boundaries between parents and children must be clearly understood and roles must never be reversed.
  • Structure and routine provide a sense of predictability that bring safety and security to the home.
  • When boundaries are crossed natural consequences are most effective.
  • Executive decisions for the entire family are made by the parents.

BUILDING BOUNDARIES:  Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, labels highly functioning families as having Clear Boundaries in them.  Clear Boundaries define the authority of parents while allowing the children to develop appropriately for their age.  Most of the articles were about building boundaries between individuals.  I found very few articles that gave step by step assistance to develop a set of boundaries for a family.  I suggest that a family might follow the following steps to create a set of functional family boundaries.

1.  Step one: Gather the family for a family meeting. Tell them that together you want to set down a set of boundaries that will become the rules the family will live by.  Make it clear from the beginning that you want everyone to contribute but the parents will have the final word.

2.  Step two: Identify the categories of rules that will be discussed.  For example, Mutual Respect.  Here family members will give their input about how all members of the family should treat each other.  Another category might be, Ensuring Everyone's Safety.  Here family members will discuss the importance of knowing where people are and that they are safe.  Another category might be Being Helpful to Each Other.  Here the family may talk about offering their assistance for the good of the family.  There are other categories that you will want to consider.  I would caution you to limit the number of boundary rules you discuss to a workable set.  You can expand on the set of boundaries as time goes by.

3.  Step three: Create a timeline.  The family should discuss the timeline for implementation.  You can consider implementing your rules all at once or in steps depending upon the decision of the family.

4. Step Four: Agree to regular family meetings.  Family meetings will serve three main functions.  First, meetings will serve to maintain family cohesiveness.  Everyone can share their joys and concerns.  Second, meetings with all the family members can inform everyone about next week's calendar of events.  Third, you can discuss agenda items. (two or three items at the most that can be suggested by anyone.)

By being privy to what is going on everyone can take comfort in knowing no one is being ignored or isolated. This is particularly helpful to the youngest members of the family.  Boundaries are very important part of creating a sense of belonging and an assurance that everyone cares.

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