Setting boundaries is easier said than done but it’s a skill you’ll use for the rest of your life

In the literal sense of the word, a boundary is a line that marks the limits of an area. In terms of your relationships, it’s how much you are willing to give or take before something needs to change.

Setting a boundary with someone involves three things:

1. Planning what you will say ahead of time

2. Preparing yourself for their reaction (there may be pushback)

3. Following through on your word

You can create boundaries about anything in life that is important to you. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Time to yourself
  • Wanting certain things to remain private
  • How you express yourself
  • Physical space
  • Freedom from negative or controlling energy
  • The ability to say no
  • Your own identity
  • Asking for help
  • How you stand up for yourself
  • A romantic or sexual relationship
  • Your daily routine or hobbies

It can be challenging to get others to accept your boundaries but ultimately, it’s a matter of respect – be it for your time, your principles or how you choose to live your life.

Family boundaries

You love your family and you don’t want to upset them. But if they’re upsetting you without realising it, it’s important to talk things through.

Saying no is especially difficult if you are a people pleaser or someone who ‘keeps the peace’ at home. However, it’s vital to put your own mental health needs first if you find yourself in a toxic situation.

Your family may not understand at first or perhaps, even refuse to acknowledge your boundary. However, once they see that you are serious and follow through on your word, they may get on board.

Here are some examples of setting boundaries with family:

  • “I don’t want to talk about that subject in front of everyone. If you keep bringing it up, I will have to leave.”
  • “I’m a vegetarian. If you continue to pressure me to eat meat, I will start having meals at a different time to you.”
  • “I can’t do that for you right now as I have to practice my music/study/go to the gym”

Friend boundaries

As with family, it can be awkward setting boundaries with friends, especially when you want to fit in or are worried that they won’t like you if you do something different.

But, if it’s important to you, it’s worth the awkwardness. It’s also a good way of knowing who your true friends are and which ones just want you to follow the pack.

Here are some examples of boundaries you might have to set with friends:

  • “Please ask before you tag me in any photos on social media”
  • “I’m not interested in smoking and if you keep insisting that I try it, I’d rather not hang out”
  • “I know you think it’s funny but I don’t like it when you call me by that nickname. Please call me by my first name instead”
  • “No, you can’t borrow my new shirt before I wear it”
  • “I’m not comfortable talking about that right now”

Social media boundaries

As well as setting a boundary like the one in the point above (being tagged in pictures or videos without your permission), it’s also worth setting some boundaries around social media for yourself.

For example:

  • I will only follow accounts that make me feel happy, empowered or educated
  • I will stop scrolling at 8pm every night
  • I will not reply to messages after 9pm
  • I will not look at my phone during mealtimes

If you’re worried about boundaries or some other aspect of your life, you can talk to Childline, day or night about anything that’s on your mind. Call 1800 66 66 66 or live chat with us on