What Kids Need: Family Boundaries

This series on What Kids Need is coming from the research and survey data of the Minneapolis based, Search-Institute.  Search has surveyed nearly five-million kids from 6th-12th grades to determine what kids need to grow up to be caring, competent, and productive adults.  Family boundaries refer to the relationship boundaries that are established within a family and its members.  What is important here is the difference between young people within the family and that difference as related to the adults in their life.  So often, older siblings try to push another sibling to be more like this or that, rather than allowing each young person to be themselves.  Kids learn how to establish boundaries in their lives through the boundaries that are found within the family.  If the boundaries in the family are too loose, or ill-defined, they will have challenges as an adult when establishing boundaries with a future partner, spouse, friends, or co-workers.

Boundaries exist to separate private and personal exchanges between say man and wife relating to sexual relations, or marital problems.  When matrimonial issues aired with children present, it damages their self-esteem and causes a tremendous lack of self-confidence.  The problem exists when parents do not know when boundaries should be established.  For example, my parents arguing about marital problems in front of us kids.  My older brother could see it coming and would quickly exist before it started.  However, my younger sister and I were caught in the middle of it the impending argument. Which often started by us asking a question that sparked the debate. Kids’ self-esteem is shattered if they think they caused or started an argument leading to further problems between their parents.

When establishing family boundaries, keep private things private, and share enjoyable moments while encouraging each young person to be themselves.  When we allow kids to be different, they are more comfortable in their spirit and can move as they feel confident in the world.  I challenge our parents to sift through the workings of boundaries in the family, to include conversations, disagreements, and private information.  When boundaries are made, we help to develop healthy kids who can grow up before confronting some of the difficulties that are not part of their lives directly.  Examine the relationship between siblings and what is said by older siblings to younger ones.  Each child is unique and different and needs the opportunity to grow up healthy, caring, competent, and productive towards adulthood.

Yours for Better Parenting,