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How to Draw Boundaries With Family Members

Mary-Lauren O’Crowley, NCC, LPC 

You may find that your peace, time, efficiency, and privacy get compromised because you are unable to draw boundaries with your family members. It is indeed a difficult task to say “enough” to a family member, especially if they are toxic, but you need to do so. As a child, there are certain rules you must follow, but as you turn into an adult you need to learn to draw the line to safeguard your personal life.

What are healthy boundaries? 

 When you establish a rule or expectation for how you would like to be treated while staying within the perimeters of respect and logic, you are establishing healthy boundaries. Basically, setting boundaries means that you are limiting the amount of interference from certain individuals in your personal matters.  

 How to draw healthy boundaries with family members

The majority of the people are unaware of how to deal with toxic or nosy family members and thus, do not draw boundaries at all. If you are one of these people, I have provided an extensive list to help you navigate this seemingly overwhelming process: 

  1. Learn to say “no”

If you are the type that doesn’t like to disappoint anyone or are a people-pleaser, it can be quite difficult for you to say “no” to someone, especially to your family. But as Anna Taylor said, “Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by choosing what you will and won’t accept.” It is important to honor yourself and your needs and straightforwardly say “no” if you are asked to do something that you simply do not have the time, energy, or resources to do. 

  1. Know your self-worth.

 Always remember that you, your time, and your values are important. If your family doesn’t acknowledge or respect you, start by asking them to do so. If they still don’t, it may be time to reassess whether you really want to be in their company. Simply put, if you won’t value your time and worth, no one will. Start recognizing your self-worth and consider minimizing the time you spend with toxic family members. Instead, reinvest that time into those that actually value and respect you.

  1. Avoid gossip

We have all taken part in family gossip at one point or another, but it can prove to be detrimental, especially if family members are speaking poorly about other family members. If you notice that your family spends an exorbitant amount of time badmouthing others and this in turn negatively impacts your inner peace, try politely switching the topic or remove yourself from the conversation altogether. 

  1. Know what you want and express it.

Recognize your needs and your limits before a family gathering. For example, if someone from your family wants to visit but you are overwhelmed at work, respectfully decline and offer an alternative date. If you find that you are not quite confident enough to say “no” in this given situation, consider setting time commitment constraints and restrictions beforehand. That way, you know what to expect and can mostly go about your daily routine without feeling burdened or overwhelmed. 

  1.  Do what’s best for you
    People often assume that if you are spending time alone rather than spending it with your family, particularly around the holidays, you are selfish or lack compassion. While family is very important to some, others may choose to distance themselves in order to protect their own emotional or physical well-being. If you find that being around certain family members increases anxiety or depression or diminishes self-esteem, it may be time to put yourself first and do what is best for you. At the end of the day, you know yourself the best and you know what brings you a sense of comfort and peace. So set boundaries with the relatives that are overly needy, critical, or even cruel to you and instead spend your time doing something you want to do. 
  1. Share your thoughts with your therapist

Many people overlook the fact that they can seek a therapist’s help when it comes to navigating complex family dynamics. A second opinion can be very helpful. Tell your therapist about your situation and why are you struggling to create boundaries with your family. 

If you or someone you know is struggling to draw healthy boundaries with loved ones, please reach out to the intake specialists at Symmetry Counseling today! 

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