Setting Boundaries with Family
Everyone has a different family. Family dynamics can sometimes be the most difficult thing to adjust to when getting married or raising children. Depending on the type of family you come from and the way you’re raised, setting boundaries may be something you really need – at the same time it could be something extremely difficult to do.
The intent of this article is not to tell you what you need to set boundaries on and who you need to set boundaries with. Rather, the hope is that you can gain insight in how to set boundaries to better support your own personal and familial values and goals.
Types of Boundaries
Dr. Salvador Minuchin, a psychiatrist, developed a modality of family therapy called, Structural Family Therapy in the 1960’s. Setting boundaries is part of Minuchin’s family therapy structure.
A family can have different types of boundaries: diffused, permeable, and rigid. Families with diffused boundaries are likely to be enmeshed. Boundaries are not clear or visible.
Rigid boundaries are indeed visible and clear cut, but do not allow for much interaction or flexibility. This can lead to a disengaged family.
Permeable boundaries, which is the ideal, are clear, but also allow for interaction, flexibility, and adjustment to different situations.
Depending on culture, family structure, values, religion, and personal preferences this determines what you would like to set boundaries on. When setting boundaries, communication is key.
Approaching boundary setting as a team player, rather than a dictator is helpful in finding boundaries that works for all. Begin by identifying what are you family values. What is important to the family? What threatens your family values and what can the family do to protect these values? Discussing and answering these questions can assist the family in not only identifying appropriate boundaries, but understanding why the boundaries exist in the first place. Total, united, family buy-in with the boundaries set is effective in maintaining the boundaries and having an engaged healthy family.
In some family situations, setting boundaries can be extremely difficult and even lead to hostility. Common situations that make setting boundaries complex can sometimes exist with new blended families, after separation of parents, families with members who struggle with addiction, families where physical, mental, sexual abuse has occured, or families with mental health concerns. This is not a limited list, sometimes setting boundaries is just plain ole difficult and it could be helpful to have a mediator. Seeking family therapy with a professional can help provide structure, guidance, and clarity in pursuing your family goals.