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How to Say No (Not to Your Kids, But to Your Family)

This edition of Pro Perspective is brought to you by Jenny Walters, a licensed marriage and family therapist. Jenny is a graduate of the Pacifica Graduate Institute and founder and director of Highland Park Holistic Psychotherapy in Los Angeles, California.

Today, Jenny shares her expert perspective on the tricky practice of setting boundaries with family.

Personal boundaries are a set of rules people create, intentionally or unintentionally, for acceptable behaviors of others toward them. When we were children, our boundaries were very fluid. Our parents would do things to us as kids that we would never allow them to do to us as adults: set our bedtimes, tell us what to eat, make us go to school, forbid us from watching certain movies, and so on.

In a healthy parent-child relationship, as children become adults they set boundaries and parents encourage and respect that boundary setting as part of the “adulting” process. But even in the best of circumstances, boundaries can get fuzzy when grandchildren come into the picture. Grandparents may believe that, having raised their own children many years ago, they know best. They raised you and you turned out ok, right?    

This article is an introduction to the art of setting boundaries with those you love. For new parents especially, this can be a tricky challenge with their own parents. Below I introduce nine steps to setting healthy boundaries, specifically for parents who are looking for ways to reaffirm their autonomy from their own parents while remaining in a loving relationship.

1. Take ownership

Your boundaries get to look and feel however you need them to look and feel. And this means they may look different than you think they should or your family thinks they should. Set your ‘shoulds’ to the side and get curious about how you feel when you’re with your family (or a particular family member—if it’s one person who is the most upsetting for you) so you can start to determine and own what your boundaries are.

We have to notice what we feel first so we can determine what we need.  If you feel like you should parent your kids the way your parents did, notice if their parenting style is actually in alignment with how you want to do things. If it’s different, it means boundaries are in order. Gathering this information is essential to determining what boundaries need to be set.

2. Practice self-compassion

Take a moment to be compassionate with yourself about the information you receive when you decide to slow down and notice how interacting with your family feels. Coming into reality with how it actually feels to be with our family can bring up grief—it’s not how we wish it were and it may never be the way we want. It’s natural to wish for perfect attunement from our family and to be deeply disappointed, even grief-stricken when we do not receive it or realize we likely never will.

It can feel like a huge letdown when the fantasy of one big happy family doesn’t come to fruition. Acknowledging the limitations of what our family is capable of is a big step. It allows us to give ourselves permission to set boundaries at all.

3. Acknowledge your own integrity

Boundaries are an act of love. They are about telling the truth which keeps us in our integrity. But setting boundaries with family can feel like PhD level boundary work. It’s difficult with family because the relationships are loaded with the past, expectations, desire for approval and a whole bunch of other complex dynamics that make families so rich yet often challenging to navigate.

The more you work to connect to boundaries as a loving act and how they are an expression of your integrity, the easier it will be to stay grounded in yourself when you go to set them with family.

4. Give yourself permission

If you know you don’t want your child eating a certain food, but Grandpa insists on giving it to her, you know you need to tell him that’s not ok. But if you’re unsure within yourself whether or not it’s ok to even have this need, asking it of Grandpa will probably get confusing really quickly.

When we head into boundary setting from a place of asking permission or seeking approval, it’s easy to get disoriented and agree to things that are not in keeping with what we need. We have to give ourselves permission first so we don’t need it from others.

If you want to discipline your kids in a certain way, ask yourself why. Connect it back to your integrity. Is it a value you hold? Does it foster your kid’s growth in a way you believe is important?

As you do this notice how your ‘knowing’ deepens, you may feel yourself become more grounded. This is your intention in setting the boundary. It’s the thing you can orient back to if your boundary meets disappointment or even anger in the people you’re setting it with.

Doing our own personal work around boundary setting means getting clear about what your boundaries are and why, exploring where your blind spots are with setting boundaries, and understanding where you get triggered. This is essential to mastering the art of boundary setting.  

5. Use your parenting skills

Setting boundaries with family can feel a bit like parenting your kids. Your children may throw a tantrum when you tell them ‘no,’ but you know what you’re doing is the right thing (connecting back to your integrity). We don’t have to join them in the tantrum or argue with it. We stay steady until the storm passes knowing we did what we needed to do even if they don’t see it that way.

6. Differentiate

It’s ok if the way you parent is different than the way your parents parented. It’s ok even if your parents don’t think it’s ok. Instead of getting caught up in the ‘right’ way to do things, try to orient to an idea of differentiation. We do things differently and that is ok.

Sometimes, we think of our relationships like a fruit smoothie, where we are all blended together and are alike. But the fruit salad is really where things feel best. We’re all in the same bowl, but we get to be different from one another and exist separately while still being close.

Take some time to get clear about how being different feels for you. For some of us, it feels bad. For others, we always want to be different to feel like we have power. The more curious you are about what’s really going on inside, the less you will unconsciously reenact old patterns with family.

7. Start small

Pick a small place to set a boundary and see how it goes. It might be telling someone in your family no when you normally agree to everything. Give yourself some compassion if you find setting the small boundary is difficult. Boundary setting takes practice. And with family, it can feel particularly fraught. It might always feel somewhat uncomfortable but in time you may find it gets easier as you see the world keeps on spinning even when you say no and someone else, even someone in your family, doesn’t like it.

8. Trust Yourself

A Daoist therapist told me, “You don’t have to give an exit interview” once when I needed to back away from a toxic friendship. She gave me permission to slow things down and scale back my level of participation without having to announce it and process it with the other person. In my case, the person was not capable of understanding my boundary or owning their part in the relationship dynamic so it wasn’t worth explicitly stating my boundary—in fact, it felt a little dangerous.

You can just start enacting your boundaries and notice what happens. If FaceTiming with your mom means she interacts with your toddler in a way you don’t like, limit the calls or set a timer to alert you to when it’s time to sign off. Your boundaries are your business and you don’t have to get anyone’s permission.

We can still stay relational and kind with one another while also standing firmly in our boundary. It’s up to us to tolerate their disappointment in our boundary and up to them to tolerate their own disappointment in us.

9. Remind yourself that boundaries with family are dynamic

They get to change and shift as you grow and your needs change. Someone with a particularly toxic family may decide I can’t have any contact with my family and over time decide to resume contact but with strict limits on how much time is spent. Maybe they’ve gone to therapy and grown some resilience around the ways their family can trigger them.

They may determine that having some relationship is worth the difficult feelings that get kicked up. And they may decide later to change their mind. It’s easy to think I have to pick a boundary and stick to it. Be easy with yourself and make room for the ways your feelings and boundaries may develop and change.

If you would like some help setting boundaries, check out my online course, Intuitive Boundary Setting for Mind, Body & Soul. It’s a deep dive into the art of boundary setting with everything from practical how-tos to guided visualizations that will help you identify and work through unconscious blocks that are keeping you from expressing your authentic self. We explore setting boundaries with difficult people, the concept of ‘the dirty yes,' how ‘confusion’ may be trying to protect you, and much more.

If you liked this article, be sure to check out our Connect Masterclass and sign up for our Connect live events!

How to Say No (Not to Your Kids, But to Your Family)

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How to Say No (Not to Your Kids, But to Your Family)

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Key takeaways

1

Take ownership of your feelings, practice self-compassion, and acknowledge your own integrity

2

Give yourself permission, use your parenting skills, and don't get hung up on right vs. wrong

3

Start small, trust yourself, and remember that boundaries with family are dynamic

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This edition of Pro Perspective is brought to you by Jenny Walters, a licensed marriage and family therapist. Jenny is a graduate of the Pacifica Graduate Institute and founder and director of Highland Park Holistic Psychotherapy in Los Angeles, California.

Today, Jenny shares her expert perspective on the tricky practice of setting boundaries with family.

Personal boundaries are a set of rules people create, intentionally or unintentionally, for acceptable behaviors of others toward them. When we were children, our boundaries were very fluid. Our parents would do things to us as kids that we would never allow them to do to us as adults: set our bedtimes, tell us what to eat, make us go to school, forbid us from watching certain movies, and so on.

In a healthy parent-child relationship, as children become adults they set boundaries and parents encourage and respect that boundary setting as part of the “adulting” process. But even in the best of circumstances, boundaries can get fuzzy when grandchildren come into the picture. Grandparents may believe that, having raised their own children many years ago, they know best. They raised you and you turned out ok, right?    

This article is an introduction to the art of setting boundaries with those you love. For new parents especially, this can be a tricky challenge with their own parents. Below I introduce nine steps to setting healthy boundaries, specifically for parents who are looking for ways to reaffirm their autonomy from their own parents while remaining in a loving relationship.

1. Take ownership

Your boundaries get to look and feel however you need them to look and feel. And this means they may look different than you think they should or your family thinks they should. Set your ‘shoulds’ to the side and get curious about how you feel when you’re with your family (or a particular family member—if it’s one person who is the most upsetting for you) so you can start to determine and own what your boundaries are.

We have to notice what we feel first so we can determine what we need.  If you feel like you should parent your kids the way your parents did, notice if their parenting style is actually in alignment with how you want to do things. If it’s different, it means boundaries are in order. Gathering this information is essential to determining what boundaries need to be set.

2. Practice self-compassion

Take a moment to be compassionate with yourself about the information you receive when you decide to slow down and notice how interacting with your family feels. Coming into reality with how it actually feels to be with our family can bring up grief—it’s not how we wish it were and it may never be the way we want. It’s natural to wish for perfect attunement from our family and to be deeply disappointed, even grief-stricken when we do not receive it or realize we likely never will.

It can feel like a huge letdown when the fantasy of one big happy family doesn’t come to fruition. Acknowledging the limitations of what our family is capable of is a big step. It allows us to give ourselves permission to set boundaries at all.

3. Acknowledge your own integrity

Boundaries are an act of love. They are about telling the truth which keeps us in our integrity. But setting boundaries with family can feel like PhD level boundary work. It’s difficult with family because the relationships are loaded with the past, expectations, desire for approval and a whole bunch of other complex dynamics that make families so rich yet often challenging to navigate.

The more you work to connect to boundaries as a loving act and how they are an expression of your integrity, the easier it will be to stay grounded in yourself when you go to set them with family.

4. Give yourself permission

If you know you don’t want your child eating a certain food, but Grandpa insists on giving it to her, you know you need to tell him that’s not ok. But if you’re unsure within yourself whether or not it’s ok to even have this need, asking it of Grandpa will probably get confusing really quickly.

When we head into boundary setting from a place of asking permission or seeking approval, it’s easy to get disoriented and agree to things that are not in keeping with what we need. We have to give ourselves permission first so we don’t need it from others.

If you want to discipline your kids in a certain way, ask yourself why. Connect it back to your integrity. Is it a value you hold? Does it foster your kid’s growth in a way you believe is important?

As you do this notice how your ‘knowing’ deepens, you may feel yourself become more grounded. This is your intention in setting the boundary. It’s the thing you can orient back to if your boundary meets disappointment or even anger in the people you’re setting it with.

Doing our own personal work around boundary setting means getting clear about what your boundaries are and why, exploring where your blind spots are with setting boundaries, and understanding where you get triggered. This is essential to mastering the art of boundary setting.  

5. Use your parenting skills

Setting boundaries with family can feel a bit like parenting your kids. Your children may throw a tantrum when you tell them ‘no,’ but you know what you’re doing is the right thing (connecting back to your integrity). We don’t have to join them in the tantrum or argue with it. We stay steady until the storm passes knowing we did what we needed to do even if they don’t see it that way.

6. Differentiate

It’s ok if the way you parent is different than the way your parents parented. It’s ok even if your parents don’t think it’s ok. Instead of getting caught up in the ‘right’ way to do things, try to orient to an idea of differentiation. We do things differently and that is ok.

Sometimes, we think of our relationships like a fruit smoothie, where we are all blended together and are alike. But the fruit salad is really where things feel best. We’re all in the same bowl, but we get to be different from one another and exist separately while still being close.

Take some time to get clear about how being different feels for you. For some of us, it feels bad. For others, we always want to be different to feel like we have power. The more curious you are about what’s really going on inside, the less you will unconsciously reenact old patterns with family.

7. Start small

Pick a small place to set a boundary and see how it goes. It might be telling someone in your family no when you normally agree to everything. Give yourself some compassion if you find setting the small boundary is difficult. Boundary setting takes practice. And with family, it can feel particularly fraught. It might always feel somewhat uncomfortable but in time you may find it gets easier as you see the world keeps on spinning even when you say no and someone else, even someone in your family, doesn’t like it.

8. Trust Yourself

A Daoist therapist told me, “You don’t have to give an exit interview” once when I needed to back away from a toxic friendship. She gave me permission to slow things down and scale back my level of participation without having to announce it and process it with the other person. In my case, the person was not capable of understanding my boundary or owning their part in the relationship dynamic so it wasn’t worth explicitly stating my boundary—in fact, it felt a little dangerous.

You can just start enacting your boundaries and notice what happens. If FaceTiming with your mom means she interacts with your toddler in a way you don’t like, limit the calls or set a timer to alert you to when it’s time to sign off. Your boundaries are your business and you don’t have to get anyone’s permission.

We can still stay relational and kind with one another while also standing firmly in our boundary. It’s up to us to tolerate their disappointment in our boundary and up to them to tolerate their own disappointment in us.

9. Remind yourself that boundaries with family are dynamic

They get to change and shift as you grow and your needs change. Someone with a particularly toxic family may decide I can’t have any contact with my family and over time decide to resume contact but with strict limits on how much time is spent. Maybe they’ve gone to therapy and grown some resilience around the ways their family can trigger them.

They may determine that having some relationship is worth the difficult feelings that get kicked up. And they may decide later to change their mind. It’s easy to think I have to pick a boundary and stick to it. Be easy with yourself and make room for the ways your feelings and boundaries may develop and change.

If you would like some help setting boundaries, check out my online course, Intuitive Boundary Setting for Mind, Body & Soul. It’s a deep dive into the art of boundary setting with everything from practical how-tos to guided visualizations that will help you identify and work through unconscious blocks that are keeping you from expressing your authentic self. We explore setting boundaries with difficult people, the concept of ‘the dirty yes,' how ‘confusion’ may be trying to protect you, and much more.

If you liked this article, be sure to check out our Connect Masterclass and sign up for our Connect live events!

This edition of Pro Perspective is brought to you by Jenny Walters, a licensed marriage and family therapist. Jenny is a graduate of the Pacifica Graduate Institute and founder and director of Highland Park Holistic Psychotherapy in Los Angeles, California.

Today, Jenny shares her expert perspective on the tricky practice of setting boundaries with family.

Personal boundaries are a set of rules people create, intentionally or unintentionally, for acceptable behaviors of others toward them. When we were children, our boundaries were very fluid. Our parents would do things to us as kids that we would never allow them to do to us as adults: set our bedtimes, tell us what to eat, make us go to school, forbid us from watching certain movies, and so on.

In a healthy parent-child relationship, as children become adults they set boundaries and parents encourage and respect that boundary setting as part of the “adulting” process. But even in the best of circumstances, boundaries can get fuzzy when grandchildren come into the picture. Grandparents may believe that, having raised their own children many years ago, they know best. They raised you and you turned out ok, right?    

This article is an introduction to the art of setting boundaries with those you love. For new parents especially, this can be a tricky challenge with their own parents. Below I introduce nine steps to setting healthy boundaries, specifically for parents who are looking for ways to reaffirm their autonomy from their own parents while remaining in a loving relationship.

1. Take ownership

Your boundaries get to look and feel however you need them to look and feel. And this means they may look different than you think they should or your family thinks they should. Set your ‘shoulds’ to the side and get curious about how you feel when you’re with your family (or a particular family member—if it’s one person who is the most upsetting for you) so you can start to determine and own what your boundaries are.

We have to notice what we feel first so we can determine what we need.  If you feel like you should parent your kids the way your parents did, notice if their parenting style is actually in alignment with how you want to do things. If it’s different, it means boundaries are in order. Gathering this information is essential to determining what boundaries need to be set.

2. Practice self-compassion

Take a moment to be compassionate with yourself about the information you receive when you decide to slow down and notice how interacting with your family feels. Coming into reality with how it actually feels to be with our family can bring up grief—it’s not how we wish it were and it may never be the way we want. It’s natural to wish for perfect attunement from our family and to be deeply disappointed, even grief-stricken when we do not receive it or realize we likely never will.

It can feel like a huge letdown when the fantasy of one big happy family doesn’t come to fruition. Acknowledging the limitations of what our family is capable of is a big step. It allows us to give ourselves permission to set boundaries at all.

3. Acknowledge your own integrity

Boundaries are an act of love. They are about telling the truth which keeps us in our integrity. But setting boundaries with family can feel like PhD level boundary work. It’s difficult with family because the relationships are loaded with the past, expectations, desire for approval and a whole bunch of other complex dynamics that make families so rich yet often challenging to navigate.

The more you work to connect to boundaries as a loving act and how they are an expression of your integrity, the easier it will be to stay grounded in yourself when you go to set them with family.

4. Give yourself permission

If you know you don’t want your child eating a certain food, but Grandpa insists on giving it to her, you know you need to tell him that’s not ok. But if you’re unsure within yourself whether or not it’s ok to even have this need, asking it of Grandpa will probably get confusing really quickly.

When we head into boundary setting from a place of asking permission or seeking approval, it’s easy to get disoriented and agree to things that are not in keeping with what we need. We have to give ourselves permission first so we don’t need it from others.

If you want to discipline your kids in a certain way, ask yourself why. Connect it back to your integrity. Is it a value you hold? Does it foster your kid’s growth in a way you believe is important?

As you do this notice how your ‘knowing’ deepens, you may feel yourself become more grounded. This is your intention in setting the boundary. It’s the thing you can orient back to if your boundary meets disappointment or even anger in the people you’re setting it with.

Doing our own personal work around boundary setting means getting clear about what your boundaries are and why, exploring where your blind spots are with setting boundaries, and understanding where you get triggered. This is essential to mastering the art of boundary setting.  

5. Use your parenting skills

Setting boundaries with family can feel a bit like parenting your kids. Your children may throw a tantrum when you tell them ‘no,’ but you know what you’re doing is the right thing (connecting back to your integrity). We don’t have to join them in the tantrum or argue with it. We stay steady until the storm passes knowing we did what we needed to do even if they don’t see it that way.

6. Differentiate

It’s ok if the way you parent is different than the way your parents parented. It’s ok even if your parents don’t think it’s ok. Instead of getting caught up in the ‘right’ way to do things, try to orient to an idea of differentiation. We do things differently and that is ok.

Sometimes, we think of our relationships like a fruit smoothie, where we are all blended together and are alike. But the fruit salad is really where things feel best. We’re all in the same bowl, but we get to be different from one another and exist separately while still being close.

Take some time to get clear about how being different feels for you. For some of us, it feels bad. For others, we always want to be different to feel like we have power. The more curious you are about what’s really going on inside, the less you will unconsciously reenact old patterns with family.

7. Start small

Pick a small place to set a boundary and see how it goes. It might be telling someone in your family no when you normally agree to everything. Give yourself some compassion if you find setting the small boundary is difficult. Boundary setting takes practice. And with family, it can feel particularly fraught. It might always feel somewhat uncomfortable but in time you may find it gets easier as you see the world keeps on spinning even when you say no and someone else, even someone in your family, doesn’t like it.

8. Trust Yourself

A Daoist therapist told me, “You don’t have to give an exit interview” once when I needed to back away from a toxic friendship. She gave me permission to slow things down and scale back my level of participation without having to announce it and process it with the other person. In my case, the person was not capable of understanding my boundary or owning their part in the relationship dynamic so it wasn’t worth explicitly stating my boundary—in fact, it felt a little dangerous.

You can just start enacting your boundaries and notice what happens. If FaceTiming with your mom means she interacts with your toddler in a way you don’t like, limit the calls or set a timer to alert you to when it’s time to sign off. Your boundaries are your business and you don’t have to get anyone’s permission.

We can still stay relational and kind with one another while also standing firmly in our boundary. It’s up to us to tolerate their disappointment in our boundary and up to them to tolerate their own disappointment in us.

9. Remind yourself that boundaries with family are dynamic

They get to change and shift as you grow and your needs change. Someone with a particularly toxic family may decide I can’t have any contact with my family and over time decide to resume contact but with strict limits on how much time is spent. Maybe they’ve gone to therapy and grown some resilience around the ways their family can trigger them.

They may determine that having some relationship is worth the difficult feelings that get kicked up. And they may decide later to change their mind. It’s easy to think I have to pick a boundary and stick to it. Be easy with yourself and make room for the ways your feelings and boundaries may develop and change.

If you would like some help setting boundaries, check out my online course, Intuitive Boundary Setting for Mind, Body & Soul. It’s a deep dive into the art of boundary setting with everything from practical how-tos to guided visualizations that will help you identify and work through unconscious blocks that are keeping you from expressing your authentic self. We explore setting boundaries with difficult people, the concept of ‘the dirty yes,' how ‘confusion’ may be trying to protect you, and much more.

If you liked this article, be sure to check out our Connect Masterclass and sign up for our Connect live events!

This edition of Pro Perspective is brought to you by Jenny Walters, a licensed marriage and family therapist. Jenny is a graduate of the Pacifica Graduate Institute and founder and director of Highland Park Holistic Psychotherapy in Los Angeles, California.

Today, Jenny shares her expert perspective on the tricky practice of setting boundaries with family.

Personal boundaries are a set of rules people create, intentionally or unintentionally, for acceptable behaviors of others toward them. When we were children, our boundaries were very fluid. Our parents would do things to us as kids that we would never allow them to do to us as adults: set our bedtimes, tell us what to eat, make us go to school, forbid us from watching certain movies, and so on.

In a healthy parent-child relationship, as children become adults they set boundaries and parents encourage and respect that boundary setting as part of the “adulting” process. But even in the best of circumstances, boundaries can get fuzzy when grandchildren come into the picture. Grandparents may believe that, having raised their own children many years ago, they know best. They raised you and you turned out ok, right?    

This article is an introduction to the art of setting boundaries with those you love. For new parents especially, this can be a tricky challenge with their own parents. Below I introduce nine steps to setting healthy boundaries, specifically for parents who are looking for ways to reaffirm their autonomy from their own parents while remaining in a loving relationship.

1. Take ownership

Your boundaries get to look and feel however you need them to look and feel. And this means they may look different than you think they should or your family thinks they should. Set your ‘shoulds’ to the side and get curious about how you feel when you’re with your family (or a particular family member—if it’s one person who is the most upsetting for you) so you can start to determine and own what your boundaries are.

We have to notice what we feel first so we can determine what we need.  If you feel like you should parent your kids the way your parents did, notice if their parenting style is actually in alignment with how you want to do things. If it’s different, it means boundaries are in order. Gathering this information is essential to determining what boundaries need to be set.

2. Practice self-compassion

Take a moment to be compassionate with yourself about the information you receive when you decide to slow down and notice how interacting with your family feels. Coming into reality with how it actually feels to be with our family can bring up grief—it’s not how we wish it were and it may never be the way we want. It’s natural to wish for perfect attunement from our family and to be deeply disappointed, even grief-stricken when we do not receive it or realize we likely never will.

It can feel like a huge letdown when the fantasy of one big happy family doesn’t come to fruition. Acknowledging the limitations of what our family is capable of is a big step. It allows us to give ourselves permission to set boundaries at all.

3. Acknowledge your own integrity

Boundaries are an act of love. They are about telling the truth which keeps us in our integrity. But setting boundaries with family can feel like PhD level boundary work. It’s difficult with family because the relationships are loaded with the past, expectations, desire for approval and a whole bunch of other complex dynamics that make families so rich yet often challenging to navigate.

The more you work to connect to boundaries as a loving act and how they are an expression of your integrity, the easier it will be to stay grounded in yourself when you go to set them with family.

4. Give yourself permission

If you know you don’t want your child eating a certain food, but Grandpa insists on giving it to her, you know you need to tell him that’s not ok. But if you’re unsure within yourself whether or not it’s ok to even have this need, asking it of Grandpa will probably get confusing really quickly.

When we head into boundary setting from a place of asking permission or seeking approval, it’s easy to get disoriented and agree to things that are not in keeping with what we need. We have to give ourselves permission first so we don’t need it from others.

If you want to discipline your kids in a certain way, ask yourself why. Connect it back to your integrity. Is it a value you hold? Does it foster your kid’s growth in a way you believe is important?

As you do this notice how your ‘knowing’ deepens, you may feel yourself become more grounded. This is your intention in setting the boundary. It’s the thing you can orient back to if your boundary meets disappointment or even anger in the people you’re setting it with.

Doing our own personal work around boundary setting means getting clear about what your boundaries are and why, exploring where your blind spots are with setting boundaries, and understanding where you get triggered. This is essential to mastering the art of boundary setting.  

5. Use your parenting skills

Setting boundaries with family can feel a bit like parenting your kids. Your children may throw a tantrum when you tell them ‘no,’ but you know what you’re doing is the right thing (connecting back to your integrity). We don’t have to join them in the tantrum or argue with it. We stay steady until the storm passes knowing we did what we needed to do even if they don’t see it that way.

6. Differentiate

It’s ok if the way you parent is different than the way your parents parented. It’s ok even if your parents don’t think it’s ok. Instead of getting caught up in the ‘right’ way to do things, try to orient to an idea of differentiation. We do things differently and that is ok.

Sometimes, we think of our relationships like a fruit smoothie, where we are all blended together and are alike. But the fruit salad is really where things feel best. We’re all in the same bowl, but we get to be different from one another and exist separately while still being close.

Take some time to get clear about how being different feels for you. For some of us, it feels bad. For others, we always want to be different to feel like we have power. The more curious you are about what’s really going on inside, the less you will unconsciously reenact old patterns with family.

7. Start small

Pick a small place to set a boundary and see how it goes. It might be telling someone in your family no when you normally agree to everything. Give yourself some compassion if you find setting the small boundary is difficult. Boundary setting takes practice. And with family, it can feel particularly fraught. It might always feel somewhat uncomfortable but in time you may find it gets easier as you see the world keeps on spinning even when you say no and someone else, even someone in your family, doesn’t like it.

8. Trust Yourself

A Daoist therapist told me, “You don’t have to give an exit interview” once when I needed to back away from a toxic friendship. She gave me permission to slow things down and scale back my level of participation without having to announce it and process it with the other person. In my case, the person was not capable of understanding my boundary or owning their part in the relationship dynamic so it wasn’t worth explicitly stating my boundary—in fact, it felt a little dangerous.

You can just start enacting your boundaries and notice what happens. If FaceTiming with your mom means she interacts with your toddler in a way you don’t like, limit the calls or set a timer to alert you to when it’s time to sign off. Your boundaries are your business and you don’t have to get anyone’s permission.

We can still stay relational and kind with one another while also standing firmly in our boundary. It’s up to us to tolerate their disappointment in our boundary and up to them to tolerate their own disappointment in us.

9. Remind yourself that boundaries with family are dynamic

They get to change and shift as you grow and your needs change. Someone with a particularly toxic family may decide I can’t have any contact with my family and over time decide to resume contact but with strict limits on how much time is spent. Maybe they’ve gone to therapy and grown some resilience around the ways their family can trigger them.

They may determine that having some relationship is worth the difficult feelings that get kicked up. And they may decide later to change their mind. It’s easy to think I have to pick a boundary and stick to it. Be easy with yourself and make room for the ways your feelings and boundaries may develop and change.

If you would like some help setting boundaries, check out my online course, Intuitive Boundary Setting for Mind, Body & Soul. It’s a deep dive into the art of boundary setting with everything from practical how-tos to guided visualizations that will help you identify and work through unconscious blocks that are keeping you from expressing your authentic self. We explore setting boundaries with difficult people, the concept of ‘the dirty yes,' how ‘confusion’ may be trying to protect you, and much more.

If you liked this article, be sure to check out our Connect Masterclass and sign up for our Connect live events!

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