Creating Healthy Boundaries

Growing up in collectivistic culture at home, boundaries were not a celebrated tool in my family. They were perceived to be selfish at times – unhelpful to the entire family unit. As I grew older, I came to realize just how important healthy boundaries are – with family members, friends, coworkers – to maintain my overall well-being. 

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, boundaries are limits that define acceptable behavior. Healthy boundaries are those created to maintain physical, emotional, and mental well-being. 

How To Create Healthy Boundaries 

I do want to preface this section by saying that the examples are for educational purposes only – some of them may not apply to your experience or situation. If you are in an abusive relationship whether with a romantic partner, family member, or friend, setting a boundary can be dangerous – please seek help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Please consult with a mental health professional to discuss what options may be most applicable or helpful for you! 

  1. Identify your boundaries: one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is recognize how we feel during certain situations. If you find yourself feeling:
  • Anxious when your mother is complaining about your father to you 
  • Annoyed when your partner invites friends over without consulting with you 
  • Angry when your child plays with the soccer ball indoors  

it may be time to set some healthy boundaries in place. Sometimes utilizing a feelings wheel can help us gain better insight into our feelings and needs.

  1. Communicate your boundaries: follow the “I-statements” method. Starting your statements with “I feel…” versus “You did…” takes judgement away, preventing the person you are speaking with from getting defensive or feeling attacked. Depending on who you are speaking with, it may be helpful to validate the other person’s feelings (can be an especially helpful tool when talking to your parents to show respect).  You do NOT need to “over explain” the reason for your boundary – your healthy boundaries are your right. 
  • “It sounds like you feel very hurt. I feel anxious and scared when you talk about dad to me like this. I love you and respect you and I cannot be here for you in this way.”
  • “I feel upset when you don’t ask me before inviting others to our home. I understand they are your friends, and I would appreciate knowing who is coming over to our home in advance.”
  • “I know you want to play with your soccer ball, and soccer balls are not for playing indoors. If you want to play, you have to play outside otherwise I will have to take your ball away.”
  1. Communicate consequences: if you find your boundaries have been crossed multiple times – it may be helpful to associate a consequence while communicating the boundary. A consequence is NOT a threat, but at times can look like an ultimatum – especially if you find yourself being mistreated constantly in a relationship, the consequence of breaking your boundary could be ending the relationship for your overall well-being.

Healthy Boundaries With Parents

“It sounds like you feel very hurt. I feel anxious and scared when you talk about dad to me like this. I love you and respect you and I cannot be here for you in this way.”

Boundaries with parents can be the most difficult sometimes – depending on your parents’ culture and your relationship with them. For myself, the example above brought up feelings of anxiety and fear of disappointment. Due to my parents’ collectivistic culture, when setting boundaries I found that it was helpful at times to avoid being in certain situations as to avoid offending them. For example, if following the scenario above, saying something like, “I can’t talk now I have to do some work that is due tonight!” 

Another important factor to name when setting boundaries with parents is the idea that we may feel guilty for not helping them. It is important to recognize and differentiate our role as a child and what responsibilities that entails and does not entail.

Healthy Boundaries With Partners

“I feel upset when you don’t ask me before inviting others to our home. I understand they are your friends, but I would appreciate knowing who is coming over to our home in advance.”

Boundaries with romantic partners are important to cultivate a strong, positive relationship versus cultivating contempt and resentment. With the couples I work with and even in my own relationship with my husband, I have found that it is easy to attack our partners by blaming them for their actions as opposed to understanding and communicating  how we feel as a result of their action. As shown in the example, I started it with “I feel” versus “Why did you invite them over?” Starting a question or statement with “you” or “why” immediately puts the other on the defensive.

Healthy Boundaries With Children

“I know you want to play with your soccer ball, and soccer balls are not for playing indoors. If you want to play, you have to play outside otherwise I will have to take your ball away.”

Setting boundaries with children may look like setting limits – validating what they are wanting to do, but being firm AND kind in establishing the limit and consequence of their behavior. To learn more about setting limits and boundaries read our posts about Positive Discipline or attend one of our workshops

It takes practice and time to create healthy boundaries. If you find that identifying your boundary, communicating it and the consequence of not following it are not working in your relationships, it may be beneficial to weigh the pros and cons of the relationship and decide if it is healthy for you. Wishing you all healthy, happy, and fulfilling relationships!

By: Sarah Shah, LPC-Intern supervised by Martha Pasiminio, LPC-S
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Parental Self-Care – What it is and Why it Matters in Child-Rearing

Child-rearing is a challenge. After all, you want your kids to grow into responsible, respectful adults — and for that to happen, your child will need the best version of you. Anything less and your child-rearing capabilities might be compromised. The question is: How can you be the best version of yourself? And how can you teach your kids that? The answer is: practice parental self-care.

What is Parental Self-Care?


Parental self-care is just another way of saying love yourself, which we discussed previously in our ‘4 Tips for First Time Parents’ post published last June. As mothers would know, every moment post-birth is about taking care of the baby, but a mother cannot nourish her baby without nourishing herself. That’s the same principle behind parental self-care — take care of yourself so you can take care of your child. If you don’t, your health will be compromised, and that may negatively affect your parenting.


Why Parental Self-Care Matters

Parenting is a full-time job, and as much as we love our kids, all jobs can get physically and mentally exhausting — this is reason enough for you to take care of yourself. You’ll be able to counter fatigue better when you practice self-care. Consequently, this will allow you to be “the center of stability and consistency” in your home.

How to Start Parental Self-Care

Here are some tips that’ll have you taking good care of yourself:

Get adequate rest

While being there for your kid all the time is what every parent wants, it’s important to not over-exert yourself. In Today’s list of self-care tips for parents, parenting experts emphasized the importance of adequate rest, which helps your mind, body, and spirit, repair and rejuvenate. Without it, your attention, immune system, energy levels, and emotions will be compromised. So, spend lots of time with your kid, but make sure you get lots of rest for yourself as well.

Self-heal by cleaning your diet

A healthy diet is a vital component to self-care, as what you eat directly impacts your overall health. Parsley Health notes in a feature on things to do when feeling tired and toxic, what you eat matters when you want to heal yourself and reset your life. After all, healing begins from the inside out. So, it is strongly advised that you clean up your diet, whether it means adopting a gluten- and dairy-free diet that is heavy on fruits and vegetables, or just cutting back on the processed foods. A good diet will give you the energy to help avoid the feeling of fatigue and burnout.

Learn to say “No”

Finally, here’s a bit of wisdom from a New York Times feature on parenting self-care: Say “no.” Oftentimes, parents are burdened by unreasonable expectations. Fulfilling every one of these expectations is impossible, and trying will just burn you out. So, decide on the things you can do, and focus on them. All the rest, sum up the courage to say “No!” Your responsibility is to your child and to yourself, not society as a whole.

A Challenge You Can Meet


Child-rearing is a challenge — but it is one that we know you can meet, especially if you take good care of yourself. So, if you need any help with that, or if you want pointers on parenting, do reach out to our Austin branches. We’ll help you any way we can.

Raelynn Aubree

Raelynn Aubree is a parent to two amazing daughters. After experiencing severe post-partum after her first child, she vowed to ensure she (and others around her) will never go through that again and aims to share some knowledge on parental self-care where possible. When she isn’t being a mother or writing, you can find her passionately baking up a storm in her home.


Supporting Your Child During Test-Taking Season

With the upcoming STAR tests, AP exams, SATs, ACTs, and more— it’s no secret that school test-taking season is upon us. This time of year can be extremely stressful for the test taker (and the whole family!). Below, we’ll discuss some helpful tips for supporting your child during this busy testing season. 

Encourage Confidence

These tests can be challenging, but it’s nothing your kid or teen can’t handle! Encourage your test taker by helping them know their strengths and remaining confident in their abilities. Help them create an encouraging mantra they can say to themselves as a reminder when things get tough in the testing room. Send an encouraging note in their lunch, or give them a small trinket the morning of the test. Let your child know that you’re thinking of them and that you believe in them. 

Create a Routine 

Weeks before the test, brainstorm a realistic routine that will create consistency. Help your child figure out the best time to study, the best time to take a break, and the best time to ask for some support. Get as specific as possible, and get your child’s input when planning for bed time, snack breaks, and everything else that comes along with studying for a big test. 

Promote Sleep Hygiene 

Sleep hygiene becomes even more important during times of high stress or anxiety. Help your child create a realistic bedtime routine that will help them feel rested, calm, and capable on test day. Limit screen time before bed, and lead your child through a calming activity instead. You can even try some mindfulness meditation, yoga, or reading as a family. 

Help Ease Feelings of Anxiety 

Help your kiddo manage their test anxiety with mindfulness practices like deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation. These are tools we often use in therapy, and are even more effective when they are practiced with family members at home.  Validate that it’s completely normal to be anxious before a test and get their input on how you can help support them as they prepare. 

Celebrate!

Don’t forget to celebrate with your child or teen after the testing is complete! Congratulate your child on their accomplishment, and try to limit your questions about the actual test material. Trust that they did their best and that they will bring the test up if they want to talk about it more. Plan to go to their favorite restaurant or hang out with friends to celebrate.  Giving your child something to look forward to can give them the motivation they need to do their absolute best on the test.  

I hope these tips prove to be helpful for your family as we enter a potentially stressful season in their academic careers. With consistency, encouragement, and preparation, we can support our kiddos as they continue reaching their scholastic goals. 


Written by: Morgan Rupe, LPC-Intern supervised by Kirby Schroeder, LPS-S, LMFT-S

Follow Morgan & Rio on Instagram at @animalassistedtherapist
Check out the work Morgan & Rio are doing at http://AnimalAssistedTherapist.com


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