Talking to Teens about Boundaries

Boundaries can be hard to navigate, especially for teens.  Figuring out life while balancing friends, school, family, and new relationships can be challenging.  Boundaries allow for teens to recognize their emotions and feelings and set limits based on those feelings. Setting these limits allows teens to protect themselves from manipulation, getting taken advantage of, and getting hurt, both emotionally and physically. Boundaries can look different from person to person and may fluctuate in different environments. The boundaries teens have at school with friends may look different than the boundaries they hold at home with their siblings. 

Why are Boundaries Important?

The absence of boundaries can result in long-term issues with your teens mental health and ability to form healthy relationships. Setting boundaries can be hard to do and require the acknowledgment of emotions and feelings and self-worth. Talking to your teen about boundaries sooner rather than later can help guide them on a path to healthy relationships and coping skills.

Boundaries allow for teens to respect themselves and ask for respect from others, this becomes  important as they begin to form lasting relationships. Without knowledge of boundary setting, teens are at risk for unhealthy relationships that can result in dating abuse and bullying. If your teen has an adult in their life that makes them uncomfortable, a friendship that involves bullying, or dating a controlling partner, setting boundaries could be the difference between developing issues with mental health and being able to develop healthy coping mechanisms (Gordon, 2021). 

What Boundaries Are Not

As teenagers, it is common that boundaries are seen as being controlling or putting a wall up around you (M., 2022). Starting the conversation with letting the teen know that boundaries are not about controlling the other person is imperative to them understanding what boundaries are. Many middle and high school aged children can carry a “tone” that may come off as demanding, discussing with them appropriate language when setting boundaries can help their understanding (M., 2022). Remind them that boundaries are a way of communicating their lines and what will happen if those lines are not respected. 

Tips and Steps for Teaching Your Teen How to Set Boundaries 

  • Help them to Identify their Feelings
    • Teenagers can have a hard time identifying their feelings and emotions towards situations. They may be able to recognize that they are upset but not be able to distinguish whether that translates to sad, angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed. It is also important for your teen to recognize feelings of excitement, happiness, and relaxation. Your teen recognizing these emotions can help them to understand where their boundaries lie (Gordon, 2021). 
  • Discuss with Them the Best Way to Communicate Boundaries
    • Teens can often be very blunt when communicating to others when they do not like something. Saying “don’t talk to me again or else…” would be a bad way to set a boundary. Teach them to instead say: “I don’t like it when you say mean things about my hair, please don’t do that or I would be more comfortable not being your friend”.  
    • Another important aspect of boundary setting is teaching them phrases that would allow them to take time to think or cool down. Phrases like “no thank you, I am not comfortable with that,” or “let me talk to my parents and I will let you know this week.” (Gordon, 2021). 
  • Remind Them: They do not need to be Everything for Everyone
    • Teens may have a tendency to want to make their friends happy and have a hard time saying no to their friends. Remind them that they do not need to say yes every time their friend asks them to do something, it is completely valid to say no when they feel uncomfortable or simply do not want to. Remind them that friendships/relationships last and thrive when they feel good about them (Greenberg, 2018).
  • Teach Them to Trust Their Gut
    • At the end of the day, let your teen know that if something makes them feel uncomfortable or feels wrong, they are allowed to say no and walk away. Remind them that the feeling is valid and that they are not being overly sensitive or dramatic, no matter what others say (Gordon, 2021). 

One of the most important parts about boundary setting is being true to yourself. Regardless of what other people may say, teach your teen that no person should do or say anything to them that makes them feel uncomfortable. Their feelings towards a situation are always valid and protecting themselves and their mental health is top priority. They are worthy of being treated with respect and those who truly care will respect those boundaries. 


Gordon, S. (2021, July 26). What Teens Need to Know About Boundaries. Verywell Family.

Greenberg, B. (2018, February 13). 5 Ways to Help Teens Set Boundaries With Friends. US News & World Report.

M. (2022, March 9). Teaching Kids About Boundaries. Meagan Gets Real.

Share this Article


Leave a Comment

Sign up for our Newsletter