Many people who have grown up in toxic or dysfunctional families can believe that these behaviors are to be expected, that this is just how families are. This can engender cycles of dysfunction and even abuse in family dynamics, allowing the pain of these experiences to continue for years to come. These dynamics get even more harmful when mental illnesses are involved. If you or a loved one are living with a mental illness that is affecting your relationship, family mental health therapy can provide the relief you need. Contact Atlanta Center for Mental Health at 833.625.0458 for more information about setting healthy family boundaries.
What Are Healthy Family Boundaries?
Family boundaries are defined rules or limits that family members set to ensure their safety, comfort, and wellbeing. They act as a list of what is okay and what is not okay in a family setting. Healthy family boundaries are necessary for productive family interactions, and respecting those boundaries is an important part of bridging the divide between dysfunctional family members. Some boundaries in family settings can include:
- Setting how much alone time you need from your family
- Preventing family members from speaking unfavorably about loved ones
- Saying no to spending time with family who has made you uncomfortable
- Asking a relative not to drink, smoke or use drugs in front of you or your children
- Being able to deny requests from family members
- Asking to finish speaking without being interrupted
- Communicating as much or as little about your dating life as you feel comfortable
Healthy family boundaries will strengthen your relationships and take both your needs and the needs of your family into respect. But, for those who have grown up in dysfunctional homes, it can be difficult to set healthy family boundaries. Children model the behavior they see in their caregivers, so if you grew up without proper communication patterns and healthy boundaries, you might find it challenging to set boundaries with your family as you move into adulthood.
Setting Healthy Family Boundaries
Since it can be difficult to set healthy family boundaries, it helps to begin with some practices and tips to set clear boundaries. These can include:
Give Yourself A Break From Family And Focus On Yourself
Make sure you are making your comfort and safety a priority in your interactions with your family. People often stretch their boundaries for loved ones due to a sense of obligation, guilt, or fear. Consider how you may be pushing your own boundaries for your loved ones and how that is making you feel. Acknowledge your feelings and understand what makes you feel safe and understood.
Use Journaling To Process Your Emotions
Writing can help you identify your emotions and unhealthy family dynamics and plan the next steps for your relationship with your family. It can help to write down what you wish to say to your family members and plan what you wish to say to them when setting boundaries in the future.
Clearly Communicate Your Boundaries
Ensure that you are clear and explicit about your boundaries with your family. Be consistent and calm as you communicate. You don’t need to justify or apologize for your boundaries. It can also help to use “I statements,” which can help keep your focus on expressing your thoughts and feelings without judgment or accusation for the other party. You can also be as assertive as you feel you need to be to set these boundaries, depending on the situation and your relationship with the family member.
Seek Mental Health Family Support
Family or individual counseling can be an invaluable resource in learning to set and communicate healthy boundaries. A therapist will work with you to identify unhealthy boundaries and toxic family behaviors and create tools to set boundaries with your family. Boundaries can be made even more difficult if you or your family lives with a mental illness or trauma. Mental health care for you and your family can make a life-changing difference in identifying and breaking toxic cycles of behavior.
Find Mental Health Family Support at Atlanta Center for Mental Health
Family mental health support is an important aspect of care at Atlanta Center for Mental Health. We understand that people’s experiences with mental health are deeply intertwined with family dynamics, especially for children, teens, and young adults who still live with their families. As a result, we make teaching healthy coping mechanisms and boundaries a central part of our mental health treatment. If you believe your family could benefit from family mental health therapy, call Atlanta Center for Mental Health at 833.625.0458 or fill out our online contact form to learn more.