Kids don’t typically understand what boundaries are, or how to use them to reduce anxiety. Even if they do, they may not understand how to articulate their feelings. The info I’m sharing with you in this post could really, really help.
Kids don’t always say they are stressed or anxious. They might say their tummy hurts, for instance. (Here are some helpful tips to recognize anxiety in your kiddos.) They may also reveal their anxiety through anger. Here are some wonderful ways you can help your child understand how to set boundaries and feel good about them. They help with anxiety by giving them the language to know what to say to express themselves around others.
How to Teach Young Kids About Boundaries
First, I’ll share with you how to explain boundaries to your young children.
Second, I’m going to offer up some sentences you can teach your kiddo that will give them power over their circumstances.
How to talk about boundaries with your kids.
Tell them to imagine an invisible bubble that protects them from head to toe. The bubble is their safe place and it’s all theirs. They can control who comes into their bubble, even people who use only their words. Teach them that they don’t have to let just anyone inside this space.
Some parents even use a hula hoop to show what a safe space might look like.
Try sharing some experiences you’ve had with setting boundaries. Was someone bothering you? How did it make you feel? Did setting boundaries help?
Your personal stories will likely be super comforting for your child. Set a good example. If they see that you can’t do it, why would they believe they can?
About physical “barriers.”
Let them know that “People are in charge of their own bodies, and it’s not okay to touch them if they don’t want you to, just like it’s not okay for someone to touch you in a way you don’t like.” (source)
“Sometimes things that seem fun to you are not fun for the other person. “A kid might want to jump on his friend’s back because that sounds fun,” suggests Dr. Busman, “but if he doesn’t take time to ask if the friend is okay with that, and doesn’t make sure he’s ready, someone is likely to end up getting hurt.” And that person could be you, too.” (from ChildMind.org)
(Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect is a very good book if you want to take a deeper dive into this subject.)
How to help them express their boundaries.
They will find these kinds of statements empowering, once they learn to use them. It will help with anxiety, as well.
- I will think about that.
- That makes me feel uncomfortable.
- Stop. I don’t like that.
- I need some time alone.
- It is important to me …
- Here is what I need right now.
- I don’t agree with you.
- Please ask me before you hug me.
- You cannot touch me there.
- I don’t want to kiss Grandma on the cheek.
- I don’t want Aunt Jo to kiss me on the cheek.
- Do not tickle me.
- That doesn’t feel comfortable.
- I don’t want to talk now.
- Wait for your turn, please.
- Please don’t interrupt me when I’m sharing my feelings.
- You hurt my feelings. Here’s why.
- Have I hurt your feelings? Tell me why.
- I don’t want to play that right now. Is there something we both want to play?
- I’ve told you how I feel. If you keep on doing it, I’m going to tell an adult.
Ask them to think about someone at school who causes them to feel upset. Practice situations that might happen, and talk about how they can use their boundaries to solve the problem.
Teach them that boundaries go both ways.
They should remember that everyone is allowed to have boundaries, even if they feel upset about it. That includes Mom and Dad, sisters and brothers, and friends. Talk about how respecting others will help others respect them.
Sher Bailey is a writer in the Midwest who believes the power of humor, Mod Podge, and grandkids can fix most problems in life. You can find her at SherBailey.com.