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Understanding Healthy Boundaries Is Important For Adolescent Relationships

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Oversharing has become a new catch phrase for the millennium. Opportunity is one factor in this phenomena. Faceless social media provides the easy mechanism to publicly share our fears, frustrations and private thoughts.

Teens frequently live to regret something that can never be erased from the ether. With massive peer influence or crowd mentality, they become followers instead of leaders.

For parents, the healthy relationship boundaries talk is a topic that can be revisited many times during the teen years. They need to understand what it means to have boundaries. Take the time with your teen to explain emotional and physical personal space, dealing with privacy, and what to do when someone crosses a boundary.

Peer pressure is always a consideration and can only be managed by their own self-control.

When talking to your teen ensure it is a dialogue and not a monologue. Encourage questions. Most of all be non- judgmental. As parents, we can assume that they understand the concept of boundaries, yet when pressed teens often don't really understand these terms. During my many years in guidance education I found this to be so, over and over again.

We tend to lump together "the teen years" as "one" time in a person's life. But in actual fact it is several stages of development. A 17 or 18-year-old teen is a very different person from your 13-year-old teen.

Tweens, that very emotional stage entering the teen years, is a time where one foot is in childhood and the other pointed toward adult hood. All of that emotion is being processed with a developing brain.

Time to talk to them about evaluating what a close adolescent friendship means to them and how much is appropriate to share. Both emotional boundaries and physical boundaries need to be clearly defined. Personal power and control are a factor in maintaining these boundaries. Peer pressure is always a consideration and can only be managed by their own self-control.

Coupled with the boundaries should be a discussion about trust. Even as adults we ask ourselves what it takes to trust someone.

Question to ask your teen: How do they determine a friend can be trusted? It will help your teen define, in their own mind, the elements of a trusting friendship.

Along with trusting someone, those tweens and teens need coping skills for betrayal of trust because it will happen. Inevitably, there will be violation of trust within their friendships. That will be the time to deconstruct what happened and evaluate the learning experience and plot the method of dealing with it in the future.

If your teen is not willing to share the actual betrayal, approach it in general terms. The most important issue is that you and your teen deal with it.

Perhaps setting them at ease with your own stories from your teen years is one avenue. Offer your own relationship examples you deem appropriate to share. It makes you 'real' to them to hear how you dealt with the fallout from a teenaged betrayal. It has been my experience that often our kids find it surprising that we experience similar jolts on the road of life.

Life is a constant evaluation of events and reset of our future plans.

Choosing friends that respect your boundaries is essential. Your teens need to understand how to evaluate a balanced relationship.

Something often overlooked is our "gut feelings." Those times when we just "know" it doesn't feel right. Those people who we know are not right for us, times when we've said something or done something and immediately knew it was the wrong thing to say or do. We are left wishing we could take it back, jump in that time machine, go back and relive those moments and change the outcome.

We know that can't be done. Tuning into that 'gut feeling' and listening is a skill. Help your child develop the ability to identify and listen to those 'gut instincts'. Not only do they need to learn to listen to 'their gut' but also act on what is the best course of action in a situation. It will help in their friend selection too.

How many times have we heard people say, "I knew that person was wrong for me" or "I knew it was the wrong thing to do." Listening to that inner voice could save a lot of relationship grief.

Failing that, it is important to encourage our teens to cope with the fallout. Right the wrong in whatever way works. Life is a constant evaluation of events and reset of our future plans.

The topic of boundaries can be revisited many times throughout the teen years. There is an ever increasing intensity of relationship focus as your teen moves through the adolescent years toward independence.

There are no guarantees. However, having a clear understanding of those boundaries and possessed of the skills to deal with various curves that life always throws at us, can only benefit your teen.

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