Archive of ‘Boundaries’ category

3 Strategies to Setting Clear and Effective Boundaries

1. Keep it short and simple

When setting boundaries for kids and teenagers, you want to make it easy to remember, easy to reference and repeat. “Please be home by 9pm” or “No friends allowed at home if we aren’t home”, instead of “It probably makes sense that you don’t have anyone over for tonight, we are going to be gone until 10pm and there won’t be anyone here to supervise you and your friends”. We often fall victim to explaining the boundary as we are stating it. Explaining why the boundary exists is a valuable conversation to have, just make sure you separate that conversation from the rule/boundary being stated. The more information or discussion being had while setting the boundary, the higher chance for loopholes, exceptions, or power struggles to follow. When you keep it short and simple, you can reference the boundary easier as well, it is easier to remember for the child/teen and less ambiguity.

2. If “this happens”, then “this is the consequence”

If/then statements are much clearer and easier to understand for a child/teenager. For example, “When homework is done, then you can hangout with your friends” or “If you are late for curfew, then you lose your Xbox for tomorrow”. The limit is clear, if a certain behavior is done, then the consequence is clear, whether it be positive or negative. These statements can be quite helpful in avoiding power struggles as well. If you find yourself getting into a power struggle, you can just take a pause and come back to the original limit set, if “x”, then “y”, end of story. Just as important as the content of the limit, it is even more crucial how you say it. Say it with confidence, keeping it short and simple and in a matter of fact way. The stronger you sound when you state a boundary, the less likely there is pushback.

3. Recognize power struggle attempts and repeat the limit

It would be wonderful if there was never any pushback on a boundary or limit set but that is not the world we live in. If you keep getting pushback, that is okay, just stay consistent and maintain your boundary. The minute you start back peddling on a boundary, you are setting yourself up for them to not believe in future limits set or feel they can wiggle out of them. They might even get upset that you are not budging or that you keep having to repeat the limit, that is okay, this is partly why you are reading this, because holding boundaries is not always easy, it takes consistency and is especially difficult if holding firmer boundaries is a new practice. Remember this: each time you set and hold that boundary is an investment, an investment into future limits set, into your child learning that when a limit is set, it matters and an investment into furthering mutual trust between you and your child. 


The Two-house Two-step

Whether recently separated or long since divorced, the transition between parents’ homes is a challenge for parents, teens and children alike. Giving your child as much heads up about when the transitions will happen, how they will happen, and updating them on any schedule disruptions is a great way to start, or reset, the Two-house Two-step. Here are a few other tips on co-parenting through home transitions: 

Clear and Consistent Expectations

Expectations and guidelines might differ between co-parents, but the expectations and guidelines at each home should be clear and consistent. Despite the constraints of two parenting styles, your child gets the benefit of TWO, loving, safe homes.

Create Routines and Lists

Parents and children should establish a drop off routine together and allow for adjustments and flexibility along the way. Create a shared list of commonly forgotten/important items of the child’s. Allow your child to edit and update this list freely and clearly reference the list during pack-up/drop-off times. A routine and list provides structure and helps build your child’s trust in the transition process. 

Give Grace

We all know how stressful a move is for an adult. For some children, the two home shuffle can feel like a lot of mildly stressful mini-moves on a set schedule. Even with a great transition plan and the most responsible children, expect there will be the occasional forgotten item when transitioning from home to home. Give your child some grace when things are forgotten; their brains are also transitioning! 

Validate Their Feelings and Model Problem Solving Skills

Identify comfort items and important, unduplicated items such as schoolwork. Validate your child’s discomfort and any other emotions they are feeling as a result of forgetting to transition an item. Of course it’s frustrating your teen forgot to bring a project due tomorrow but they remembered to bring their phone and 3 backup chargers. Of course it’s frustrating when your 9 year old forgets their soccer jersey the night before a game but remembers to bring all their Halloween candy. Instead of another lecture about remembering important items, consider modeling adaptability and problem solving skills. Calmly talk through your options with the child on whether retrieving the item is appropriate and feasible. 

Recap Your Time Apart

Establish a pick-up ritual with your child. Children may feel they are “missing out” on fun activities or bonding that happens while they are at their other home. Spend a few minutes recapping your time apart and talk through any upcoming events or reminders. 

Communicate With Your Co-Parent

Avoid using your child’s possessions as a co-parenting weapon. If a consistent pattern of forgotten items presents itself, please consider contacting your co-parent when neither of you are with the child, such as during the school day, to come up with a solution. 


How to Help Your Child When They Flip Their Lid

Many of us have witnessed children getting taken over by intense emotions resulting in losing their temper, reacting without thinking, or blowing up. In those moments it can be really difficult to stay grounded and regulated, while also trying to calm your child down. Dr. Dan Siegel, author of Whole Brain Child, terms these instant reactions your child experiences as “flipping their lid.” Once we understand how the brain affects the way we regulate emotions, then not only can we can help our children stay calm but we can also keep our own lid on. 

What is Flipping a Lid?

Flipping a lid has everything to do with the brain and how messages are sent to different sections of the brain about what our bodies are experiencing. When children are able to problem solve, act kindly, and be empathic, those are immediate signs that their prefrontal cortex or “rational brain” is intact.  Said differently, their lid is on. When the prefrontal cortex is engaged, children feel calm, safe, and relaxed. When children are experiencing big feelings (e.g. very angry or anxious, overreact, yell) that serves as a warning sign that they are not thinking with their rational brain but instead using their “emotional or animal brain.” This is when the amygdala is activated, fight, flight, or flight response is triggered, and children flip their lids. The emotional brain keeps children safe and guards them against things that pose as a threat. During this state, their rational brain has been disconnected from their emotional brain- logic no longer influences emotions. 


How to help your child keep their lid on 

Hugs 

Hugs can be a great way to provide relief for your child who has flipped their lid. Instead of flipping your own lid and matching your child’s high emotional state, hugs activate mirror neurons in your child’s brain. This can can help your child sense your emotionally regulated state and influence their reactions. When your child’s brain recognizes the love and affection in your hug, its chemistry is altered and can return to a state of calm and relaxation. Their lid begins to close.  

Validate and Ask Curiosity Questions

When you are noticing your child has flipped their lid, it can help to understand their point of view. Show your child that they have your undivided attention and provide them a space where they feel seen and heard. Ask them curiosity questions to better understand their experience, such as “Are you feeling frustrated that you have to go to bed?” or “Do you want some space from me or would you like a hug?”  By creating a sense of safety and being empathic, they can slowly tame their emotions and put their lid back on. 

Apologize

There will be times when flipping your lid is unavoidable. It is after these moments that sincere apologies can repair the relationship and reconnect you with your child. Let your child know that you are sorry for flipping your own lid, which may have caused hurt feelings. It is also important to ask your child how you can fix this mistake. Mending the rupture with apologies can model valuable skills to your child, such as cooling off, emotional regulation, problem solving, and reconnection. 

You can find Dr. Dan Siegel’s scientific explanation of “Flipping Your Lid” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gm9CIJ74Oxw&ab_channel=FtMyersFamPsych


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