The Teens’ Guide to Setting Healthy Boundaries

Growing up means learning how to navigate tricky situations. Especially when it comes to close relationships, teens are constantly figuring out how to stand up for themselves and communicate what they are comfortable with. With the holidays rolling around, families will be spending more time in close proximity to each other. With breaks from school, teens will likely be visiting relatives, taking more time with family, and more time away from seeing friends or dating partners. Now is the perfect moment to start a conversation about how teens can  appropriately approach uncomfortable scenarios. Setting boundaries in relationships with friends, family, and even with parents is crucial for personal development and teen mental health. So, to help you teach your teen how to set healthy boundaries, we have put together this mini-guide. Read on for our tips!

Family Gatherings

The holidays are a time for closeness. As you plan visits or events with extended family members, consider talking to your teen about how they are feeling about it. Especially if there is a family member that will be present that might cross the line or somehow make your teen uncomfortable, break the ice by bringing up the topic with your teen first. Gently encourage them to come to you if something strange happens and they need help handling it. Suggest ways that they can appropriately address their concerns with family members that are making them uncomfortable. Let them know if someone says or does something that bothers them that they should let that person know. Be clear that you will publicly support them if such a situation were to arise. 

Friendly Friendships

As teens spend more time with you, they might be getting a little (reluctant) distance from their friends. Now is a great time to chat with your teen about how they are feeling in their relationships and how to keep those friendships, well, friendly! Situations like experiencing hurtful comments, gossiping about other friends, bossiness, peer pressure, or guilt-tripping can take place before teens learn how to set boundaries with friends. Some friends might be well-meaning and still unknowingly make your teen feel uncomfortable. It is important to share with your teen that it is okay to let their friends know if they do not like a certain way that person is behaving with them. Remind your teen that if they approach the situation with kindness and diplomacy that their friend should understand. It might even bring the friendship closer!

Romantic Relationships

The teenage years are for exploration! Dating relationships are the perfect example of navigating difficult situations. As your teen starts dating, or if possible before, be sure to share with them what a healthy relationship looks like and what might be toxic. Encourage them to set healthy boundaries with their partner early on to avoid being taken advantage of. When it comes to dating, it is important for teens to know where they stand on important subjects like sexual activity, spending or borrowing money, time, space, and privacy. Not only will this help your teen consider what they are comfortable with but it will also remind them that their partner might have boundaries to set as well! 

Pleased Parents 

Teens often want to please their parents. Even if they act out, it can stem from their feeling unable to make their parents happy and proud. They might be concerned about upsetting their family or being punished for being honest about things that they do not like. Consider that behaviors like not knocking on the door before entering, disregarding privacy, commenting on outfits or eating habits (within reason), and making judgements about friends could be bothering your teen. These things can become bad habits of even the best parents but it is your teen’s job to find a way to express their annoyance in an appropriate way. The process of setting boundaries with parents can be a scary step! So, let them know that you support them and that it is okay for them to come to you about anything, even if it is about you! 

At Tilly’s Life Center, we believe teaching teens how to set boundaries is vital to their well-being. As difficult as it may be at times for young people to learn to stand up for themselves, the task gets easier with support from adults like you! To facilitate this, we provide workshops designed to make teen mental health resources available for you and your family to help teens live positive, productive, and fulfilling lives. To learn more, visit us at