By Natalie Stigall, Education and Outreach Specialist


Setting healthy boundaries with teens can be tricky; you want to keep them safe, and they want more independence and privacy as they mature. And
research shows that when parents exert too much control, teens are less likely to feel a sense of connectedness with parents and less able to develop independence in their relationships with friends and romantic partners. So we’ve compiled some tips on establishing healthy boundaries with your teen.

 What is need to know

For their safety and your peace of mind, you need to know who they are with and what they are doing. But do you need to know what they chat about with their best friend or what they write in their journal? Figure out what you need to know versus what you want to know.

Knock before entering

As they grow and mature, teens might be uncomfortable with you or others seeing and touching their bodies; and that’s ok! Respect their personal space and remember that closed or locked doors aren’t warning signs on their own; they are perfectly reasonable requests for privacy. So, knock and wait for a response before entering their room. You can also support their growing body autonomy by giving them privacy during doctor’s visits.

Private property

Again, it’s natural and normal for teens to want privacy. After all, don’t you? And studies show that teens who feel their parents violate their boundaries by looking at their messages and going through their things are less likely to open up. Resist the temptation to check backpacks or rooms and start a conversation instead!

Give respect to get it

We say this to teens all the time. But how often do we apply it to ourselves in our interactions with them? If we respect teens’ privacy and independence, they are more likely to return that respect by talking to us willingly.

Social media: mentoring over monitoring

Instead of controlling or monitoring teens’ social media, have conversations about their rights and healthy boundaries online, and let them know they can come to you if anything happens. Then, model this behavior; don’t post pictures or stories about your teen without their consent, for example.

Have concerns?

Talk to them! Tell your teen that you’ve noticed a change in their behavior and are concerned. Then, give them the space to respond and share without judgment. And if your teen does tell you they messed up, don’t yell at them or punish them beyond the natural consequences of their mistake. Instead, try supporting them in responsibly handling those consequences. Most importantly, if a teen is experiencing abuse, has been exposed somehow, or is being harassed, let them know it is not their fault. They are a victim and need empathy and support.

How do you verify privacy settings in your relationships and discuss healthy boundaries with teens? Tell us what you think below!

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