Getting Through To Your Teen

Boundaries and structure provide a sense of security and safety for all of us. As a parent, it can be difficult to define those boundaries for your teens. Here, from Dr. Karyn’s Guide to the Teen Years, is a list of areas you may want to consider-and questions to ask yourself-as you set boundaries in your home. 

Many parents have boundaries or rules for their young children. Often these boundaries are quite specifi c-as in “no candy before supper”-and sometimes they are more wide-reaching, like “no lying.” But where do we need to draw boundaries when we are living with teenagers? Take a look at the following list of boundary areas that come up in parent-teen relationships to see what boundaries you already have in place and which you might want to establish.

Physical Boundaries

• Do family members need to knock before entering each other’s bedrooms?
• Are family members allowed to look through each other’s belongings or correspondences?
• Can family members borrow each other’s things without asking?
• Do you, as parents, have the right to inspect your children’s rooms or read their email or diaries?

Financial Boundaries

• What do your teens have to pay for?
• What do you have to pay for?
• Do your teens get an allowance? If so, how much? Do they need to earn it? How do they earn it? What are they responsible for?
• Do your teens have to have their own bank accounts?
• Will you lend money to your children or are they expected to save up for their purchases? If you lend them money, what is the family policy about paying it back?

Communication Boundaries

• If your teens tell you something in confi dence, will you tell other people? Will you tell your spouse?
• Do you allow for your teens to swear? If not, and they do anyway, what is the consequence?
• What words do you allow and what words are off limits?
• If your teen puts someone down or engages in verbal abuse what action would you take?
• What tones of voice are acceptable?
• Is your teen allowed to interrupt when someone is speaking? If so, when and how?

Responsibility Boundaries

• Are your teens expected to wake up by themselves in the morning?
• Are your teens responsible for any household chores? Which ones?
• Are your teens expected to prepare any meals for the family?
• Are your teens expected to make their own lunches?
• Are your teens expected to do their own laundry?

Social and Dating Boundaries

• At what age do you allow your teens to begin dating?
• How many nights per week are they allowed to go out?
• Do they have a curfew? If so, what time do they need to be home on weeknights? Weekends?
• Are teens allowed to have sleepovers with a girlfriend or boyfriend?
• Would you buy birth control pills or give your teens condoms if you knew that they were sexually active?

Media Boundaries

• Do you limit the amount of time your teens can spend on TV, MSN, Facebook or other computer activities that are not homework?
• What is the family policy about answering the phone? Are there times when the phone should not be answered (e.g., dinnertime)?
• Is there a family policy about listening to music on headphones?
• Is there a family policy about answering cellphones? (e.g., not at dinnertime or past 11 p.m.?)

School/Homework Boundaries

• Are there designated times and places for doing school work?
• Whose responsibility is it to make sure school work is complete? Are there consequences outside of school if homework is not done?
• Are there limits to the amount of parental help given with homework?

Driving Boundaries

• How often you drive your teen places? Is there a limit?
• If your teen wants a ride somewhere, when and how must he ask?
• If your teens are licensed to drive, who pays for their insurance and gas? Who pays if they get a ticket?
• What do your teens have to do to maintain the privilege of using the family car?

Blended-Family Boundaries

• Who is in charge of discipline?
• If the biological parent is in charge, under what circumstances can the step-parent provide discipline or impose consequences?

Bedtime Boundaries

• Is there a set bedtime for your teenage children? Are there any other expectations for nighttime routines (e.g., computer or music off at a certain hour)?

Smoking/Alcohol/Drug Boundaries

• Is smoking, underage alcohol consumption or drug use allowed on your property?
• If not, what would the consequence be if you found out your teens were consuming these things in your home?
• What would the consequence be if you found out your teens were consuming these things outside of the home?

Emotional Boundaries

• Do you allow your teens to voice their anger? Depression? Sadness?
• Are there any emotions you don’t allow your teens to express?
• Do you consider it acceptable to cry on your teen’s shoulder?
• Do you consider it acceptable to go to your teens for support?

Eating Boundaries

• Do you require everyone to eat together as a family? For all meals, or just some?
• Is eating in front of the TV allowed?
• Are there limits to how much junk food your teens are allowed to eat or what kind of food they can bring into the house?

Dr. Karyn’s Guide to the Teen Years, published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Copyright © 2008 by DKB Coaching and Wellness Studio Inc. All rights reserved. 

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