4 Ways to set Boundaries in Friendships
I have had to cut ties with people multiple times in my life. Not just the "lose touch" type of cut ties, but in order to maintain healthy boundaries I had to go my separate way. With friendships, when you don't have healthy boundaries in place things can get hard. Tension starts to build, jealousy can even set in, and ultimately an argument can occur. Sometimes the best way to make a friend is to look out for yourself. If you and the people you are surrounding yourself with have different morals or want to make different decisions, that can cause conflict, hurt, or sometimes cause you to make the wrong decision. Peer pressure is a sneaky reality many teens find themselves caught up in before they realize what is happening. It is often very subtle, yet can be very damaging. Rejection by peers involves very negative emotions for teens. How can parents communicate with our teens to teach them warning signs to look for, as well as healthy boundaries in place to deflect peer pressure? Developing lifelong friends free of the harmful effects of peer pressure is possible so here are some tips:
1. Stay firm in your conviction
This isn't easy. In fact, practicing any healthy boundary is challenging. When a situation arises that makes you feel uncomfortable, take a second to step back. As parents, make sure your student has the tools for these moments. Maybe they chose to go to a party with a friend, and at this party, things begin to make them feel uncomfortable. Is there a plan in place for them to contact you if they need to? There needs to be. Often times students (even when they feel uncomfortable) will push those "gut" feelings aside and go with the flow of what is happening around them. This can be extremely dangerous. As a student, some questions you can ask yourself are: "Am I comfortable with what's happening around me?", "Have I contacted my parents to let them know about the situation?", "Are the friends I am hanging around with truly best for my life?" Asking these questions, and creating these boundaries will allow you to be more confident, calm, and content with the decisions you are making for your life.
2. Have open conversations
As we age, our personalities will shift. It is just part of growing up. Vocalizing your intellectual, emotional, and even spiritual boundaries with those you choose to surround yourself with is important. Think about a time when you chose not to speak up and ended up in a situation that made you feel uncomfortable. How did your relationship with that person work out? Something effective we, as parents, can do with our students is to create a boundary chart that outlines each boundary per relationship category and have them fill in the boundary criteria they feel comfortable with. By creating this and doing this with your student you will both have a good understanding of what the boundaries are.
3. Text vs Face to face time
I know... I know... this is the world we live in. Who even talks to someone face to face anymore anyway? But believe it or not, someone is more likely to hide behind their phone than to be real with you in person. Why is this a boundary? Well, let's talk about it on a friendship level. With friends, if all you ever do is text, Snapchat, or Instagram them when you finally do meet up in person things are awkward, they don't flow. If all you have in common is a random selfie of your eye, real conversations can't take place. Those media outlets are a fun way to meet new friends, but try and make it a priority within your friendships when you are together to have "no phone policies". Maybe at a dinner gathering everyone puts their phone in the middle of the table and the first person to touch their phone has to buy everyone's meal? Who knows! Get creative! The time you have with your friends in meaningful conversation will be the times you cherish the most.
4. Honesty is key
Often in relationships conflict will arise, but that doesn't have to end a friendship. In fact, figuring out how to be honest with your friends in a healthy way is crucial to long lasting friendships. Common mistakes we can make are:
- Pretending that nothing is wrong and letting the problem grow.
- Shutting down the friend that tries to be honest with us.
- Failing to bring up an issue and then getting so annoyed with a friend as a result that they begin to bad mouth us.
When approaching a friend with a conflict always be honest, and think of it as a way to grow your relationship. Approach conversations with the thought of coming to an understanding, not to just be right.
Our goal this month is to start the school year off on the right foot with healthy boundaries in place and focus on the importance of finding friends with those same boundaries.
Jordan is our Communications Director, joining the DCO staff in 2017. She studied Marketing at East Texas Baptist University where she met her husband Cody. Jordan and her husband both have a heart for students and to see them succeed.