Healthy relationships are built on mutual respect and boundaries. Respect and boundaries save and protect relationships because there are clear expectations of what is and is not acceptable. Setting boundaries is the best way to honor yourself and create fulfilling relationships. Relationships that add value to your life, make you feel good, that doesn’t drain your energy. Unhealthy boundaries in relationships can cause stress, unhappiness, and an overall feeling of suffocation. And for the record, boundaries are not just for friends and romantic relationships. Boundaries are essential when it comes to family. 

How To Set Boundaries With Family

Why Is Setting Boundaries Important With Family?

If the idea of seeing a certain family member only causes you to worry and get nervous, there is something in that relationship that needs to change. Toxic family connections lead to difficulties creating genuine relationships, and discomfort, & often end in a giant blowout. So it’s important to protect your mental health, avoid a family brawl, and maintain healthy boundaries as a priority. Blood may be thicker than water, but it doesn’t have to be thicker than the boundaries you set to protect your energy and mental wellness. So, today we’re getting real about how to set boundaries with family, tips, and techniques for maintaining boundaries, and how to communicate your boundaries with sternness, love, & comparison.

Start with yourself and practice self-awareness.

The first step to setting healthy boundaries is first and foremost taking a hard look in the mirror. Practicing self-awareness does not equal blaming yourself. It’s just a willingness to recognize your behavior with an honest outlook. So first and foremost should try to recognize how you’ve contributed to unhealthy boundaries in your family. For example, if you’re constantly over-sharing with an over-opinionated mother, take note. Maybe you’ve been overly critical of another family member’s actions. Do you have a codependent relationship with any family members? Or if you’re consistently involving your parents when you fight with a sibling, just acknowledge and recognize your patterns of behavior. It’s important for you to first recognize how you might be contributing to unhealthy boundaries with family members, and consider how you can act differently so healthy boundaries are encouraged for the entire family. 

This episode of ILYSM dives deep into setting physical boundaries, codependency, processing emotion, & more. It’s a great listen if those are things you’re currently struggling with.

Reflect on the reasons you want or need to set boundaries.

There are unhealthy relationships, and then there are abusive relationships. If the reason you’re setting boundaries is to have more healthy interactions with your parents and siblings, get more joy out of your familial relationships, and overall feel less drained and more fulfilled by your family relationships the tips on this list will help. If you’re experiencing any kind of trauma or abuse because of your family relationships, you may need more firm boundaries with the support of professionals. So keep that in mind as you’re considering how to set boundaries with family. 

Commit to honoring yourself.

To maintain your boundaries moving forward, you have to commit to honoring yourself, your values, and your needs. Commit to making yourself, your happiness, and your mental health and wellness your priority. Also, make sure to accept that it’s okay to make yourself the priority. It doesn’t mean you love your family any less. Choose to honor yourself and your needs so that you can show up more present, happy, and energized when you’re around your family. 

Identify your triggers and get ahead of them.

A trigger is any situation, comment, behavior, experience, or event that is difficult to deal with. We all have triggers. Maybe you grew up with a Dad that drank too much, so seeing your brother drinking heavily is a trigger. Or maybe you were in a relationship with someone with a narcissistic personality that would gaslight you. So having your feelings invalidated is majorly triggering. Whatever your triggers may be, it’s important to ditch any shame surrounding them. There is no shame in recognizing your triggers. Recognizing your triggers will help you set boundaries and react more positively in uncomfortable situations.

If one of your triggers is heavy drinking, for example, you can set a boundary to leave earlier on nights when everyone is drinking. Of course, a trigger can happen at any time and be completely unforeseen. You can’t always avoid them. However, if you can identify your triggers, you can hopefully reduce the number of times you’re in an uncomfortable situation.

Be confident in your ability to say no. 

Boundary violations often occur because people are afraid of offending the other person by denying their wants. Saying no can seem daunting, but it’s the best way to put an end to any unhealthy boundaries. If you can’t make that dinner, lunch, holiday, birthday, or special occasion because you have something personal going on, it’s okay to say no. If you have a family member that routinely makes poor decisions and relies on you to pick up the pieces, say no. Be ready to take a breath and say no to anything that is taking a toll on your life, time, goals, emotions, and mental health. Don’t let any family member walk all over you or guilt-trip you for denying their request

Communicate your needs in the relationship.

To maintain healthy boundaries with a family member, it’s necessary to draw clear lines for the kind of behaviors you won’t tolerate. You can’t expect others to respect your time boundaries if they don’t know you have them. For example, if you yearn for more structure in your life, it could mean simply saying “I won’t be able to commit to any last-minute plans moving forward because I’m committed to my schedule.” It could also mean voicing when you’re a person feeling uncomfortable, disrespected, or mistreated. Whatever behaviors, comments, expectations, or interactions you are determined to stop allowing, say it. Loud and clear. Say it intentionally, calmly, and with confidence. 

Be realistic and don’t ask people to change.

You can’t expect everyone to be on a personal growth journey or feel the need to act differently. And people won’t change simply because you say so. All you can do is set boundaries that personally impact you, and lead by example. Although we all wish our 65-year-old mother would suddenly act differently, she might not. So don’t constantly try to put the square peg in a round hole. Don’t set unrealistic standards and expectations that your family members won’t even attempt to meet. Instead, accept your family members for who they are and set your boundaries accordingly.

Voice when your boundaries feel violated.

Accountability is extremely important for maintaining boundaries in relationships. For everyone, including yourself, to take your boundaries seriously, you have to be willing to say when they are violated. The key here is to acknowledge that your boundaries were violated without contributing to a heated moment. Speak your truth honestly, without aggression, and with compassion and kindness in your voice. Don’t attack. Instead, focus on how you felt and what kind of interaction you prefer. This article is a great resource for using I statements in relationships.

Forgive the past, and focus on the future.

To move forward with your new boundaries and maintain a more healthy relationship, you can’t keep living in the past. If you have any unresolved anger or resentment, it’s time to focus on letting that go. Move and evolve into a future more healthy, respectful relationship. This doesn’t mean that you need to forget the past. It just means that you need to let go of any negative, low vibrational feelings towards family members you’re setting new boundaries with. 

Here is an episode of Real Pod that discusses how to heal a strained family dynamic, listen here: Forgiving Your Ex & Healing Strained Family Relationships with Spiritual Guru Sah D’Simone. 

Remember you are the one in control of your life.

You are in charge of maintaining the boundaries you created for your family. You control whether or not a person gets away with repeated boundary violations. It’s your choice to let it pass or take action and insist they have crossed the line.

This episode of Recovering From Reality dives deep into dysfunctional family dynamics and how to recover from them. If you want to learn more about the subject, listen here: And So It Is w/ Andrea Arlington.

Write a list of coping strategies.

Let’s face it, when you start to set boundaries you may hit some bumps in the road. It’s important to practice self-care when dealing with a lack of boundaries, arguments, or family members that don’t agree with enforcing your boundaries. Unresolved family issues can hurt your mental health and risk your other relationships if you can’t cope. A great way to always be ready to deal with a crisis is to write down a list of coping strategies that work best for you. Keep these strategies in mind any time things don’t go as planned and you need help to cope.

A few solid coping strategies are taking a relaxing bath, practicing meditation, going for a walk, listening to calming music, journaling, moving your body, and listening to your favorite podcasts.

Seek out your safety net. 

If you have several people you know you can rely upon, don’t be afraid of letting them know you are struggling. Reach out to your loved ones and ask for their support. The whole point of having a safety net is to be around them and feel safe, so be open with them. Boundary violations put a strain on your mental health, so it’s valid and necessary to feel supported during tough times. 

Allow yourself to do what’s best for you. 

Value yourself and your time. Don’t waste precious moments with those who refuse to set boundaries or don’t appreciate you. You have no obligation to family members, even if you are of the same blood. Healthy relationships come first. Prioritize the people in your life that make you feel your best, and don’t be scared to walk away from dysfunctional dynamics. At the end of the day, it’s your life and you should not struggle your way through it. Ignore the stigma and forge your path. 

What are your favorite strategies to set boundaries with family?

Those were some of our best tactics on how to set and maintain healthy boundaries with a family member or blood connection. It’s important to identify when someone has crossed the line and take action to establish a healthy boundary with them. A lack of boundaries can have a negative long-term impact on your mental health, so it’s necessary to act quickly and protect your closest relationships. Good luck with your family boundaries and remember to take care of yourself!