Can You Set Healthy Boundaries With Your Family? What it Looks Like & 3 Communication Tips

By Krista


Last Updated: April 6, 2022

To set healthy boundaries with family is hard. As you get older, you might realize that your parents or certain family members have toxic behaviors that you, simply, can no longer put up with. So, you draw a line in the sand.

But then, that line quickly becomes blurry. 

You might struggle to stick with your boundaries. Or you might constantly find yourself in situations where others are crossing the lines you’ve drawn or you’re being pulled in different directions. 

You’ve tried the simple “stick to your rules” advice, but it hasn’t worked. So, how can you set better boundaries in your relationships? In this article, we’re going to help you do just that!


What Are Unhealthy Family Boundaries?

Let’s start this article off by quickly outlining what exactly unhealthy family boundaries are and why. 

When it comes to any relationship, there needs to be an area where you end and the other person begins (and vice versa). Setting boundaries with family members tends to get complicated for various reasons tangled up in this whole idea.

In certain families, instead of having strong and healthy bonds that tie individuals together, there exists a fusion due to unhealthy emotions or past trauma. For instance, this is often the case when a child becomes ill, a parent goes through an alcohol or drug addiction, or even when parents go through a divorce. 

These circumstances can lead to unhealthy boundaries in relationships, particularly between parents and children. Parents might become overly reliant on their children. Or the children might not be able to develop their own separate identity from their parents. 

And this can lead to unhealthy boundaries, such as:

  • Invasion of privacy
  • Giving unsolicited advice or judgment
  • Making comments that aren’t necessary (and could be hurtful)

Does this sound familiar? If so, you might need a few examples of healthy boundaries with family before moving on to how exactly you can set better boundaries with them.

Related Article: 21 Signs You’re Dealing with a Fake And Toxic Friend


Examples of Healthy Boundaries with Family 

Some common examples of healthy family boundaries include:

  • Texting your mom when you’ve arrived home
  • Asking permission
  • Taking each others’ feelings into consideration
  • Being honest
  • Giving space and avoiding codependent behaviors
  • Showing respect for differing opinions or feelings


Setting Boundaries with Needy Family Members

Now, it’s time to start setting boundaries with family members (or at least better ones!). To do this, follow these steps:

  • Determine what you need
  • Determine ways to respond when your boundaries are crossed that are respectful, and simple, and communicate your boundaries clearly (more on this in a second!).
  • Practice saying “no.”
  • Learn coping strategies to take care of your mental health. Remember, you can only control yourself! Individuals might still cross your boundaries. Thus, it’s up to you to respond in an effective, efficient, and respectful way.

While all of the above is fine and dandy, putting it into action is quite different. Maybe you’ve set boundaries in relationships and you really struggle to make them work. Keep reading to find out what exactly you need to say to overcome this hurdle.

Related Article: 5 Important Ways to Set Boundaries with Others & Stick to Them


What Do You Say to Set Boundaries With Toxic Family Members?

There are a few ways to set healthy boundaries with your family, each depending on what the situation requires and the people involved. Here are some ways to assess exactly what you need to say when setting boundaries with family:

1. Try Saying Your Boundaries with Appreciation & Gratitude

Alright, this is arguably very hard. But this is why having your own coping mechanisms, such as meditation and even practicing gratitude regularly, is so important.

When you approach setting a boundary from a frame of appreciation, it shows the other person that you care about their feelings too.

For instance, if your parents drop by out of the blue all the time, you could say something like, “I really love seeing you, and it’s great to see you right now. But I’m not always ready for company. I would prefer if you called or texted before dropping by.”

2. Be Direct and Specific

Bouncing around topics never does any of us any favors. Plus, when we’re vague, it’s easy for messages to get lost in translation. 

Instead of saying, “I don’t need this gift,” try, “This was really thoughtful of you, but I really don’t need more clothes. If you want to get us a gift, in the future, we’d really appreciate a gift card for gas.”

3. Remind and Re-Direct

People need reminders! In fact, the unfortunate side may be that your family might not fully believe you’re going to set and stick to these boundaries. So, they might even test it at first. 

When this happens, just politely remind them, “Remember, we talked about calling before dropping by!” Then, you can re-direct this by suggesting an alternative, such as, “Maybe we can grab coffee this weekend?”


What Else Can Setting Boundaries with Family Sound Like?

For a lot of us, we want to avoid conflict and drama at all costs. The unfortunate side of this equation is that we often get caught up in drama or conflict that we didn’t intend to happen. Emotions can get the best of us in situations, especially when it involves those you love.

A few phrases that might help you maintain boundaries in relationships include:

  • “I appreciate your concern and worry, but this is my decision.”
  • “I respect your opinion, but I don’t share it.”
  • “I will no longer be the middle person in family conflict.”
  • “Please stop asking when we will have kids. It’s putting a lot of pressure on my relationship, and we will let you know when the time is right.”
  • “I understand your frustration, but I don’t want to be part of this family conflict.”


When Should You Walk Away?

You’ve tried to set healthy boundaries with family members, but it doesn’t seem to work. No matter what you say, your lines keep getting crossed. If this is the case, you have the right to walk away, especially if you’re feeling very emotional. In fact, you should walk away if you’re finding your emotions are high.

You can simply re-state your boundary and say you’re removing yourself from this current conversation. It’s further important to give a time for when you can talk later (even if it’s not about the current topic).

Brene Brown has said, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”

It’s okay to choose yourself first. It’s okay to let someone else down for the sake of your own mental health. At the end of the day, when you choose someone, it should always be you.

Read Next: Relationships Need Boundaries: Tips for Setting Them


2 comments on “Can You Set Healthy Boundaries With Your Family? What it Looks Like & 3 Communication Tips”

  1. Great advice! This was very helpful and insightful, thank you!! Love all of your content and articles, your daily motivations and affirmations are always wonderful and inspirational to read as well!!!

    1. Thank you for sharing that Sandra! We love to hear that we are resonating with people. So happy to meet you 🙂

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