Communication is the key to boundaries Communication is the key to boundaries

Allowing your kids to go out late, go on sleepovers or go on trips are difficult decisions for parents who have teenagers. How to deal with giving them permission and when to say “okay.”

Medical Advisor Alexander Rodriguez – Family Therapist

The concern parents have with setting boundaries and giving permission is largely related to a generational gap. Setting boundaries, however, gives young people security and protection, allowing them to set their own limits, improve their home life, develop respect, prepare them to live in society and help them to build their tolerance to frustrations. To raise them with love and good judgment, Alexander Rodríguez, family therapist, suggests that the first step is to understand that teenagers are at a stage in their life where they are creating their own life story, which is why all dimensions of their life must be taken into consideration.

“Between ages 12 and 17 is when they get most of their knowledge from the world that will make them into healthy and happy adults. Parents are therefore responsible for approaching their children, entering their world and having good communication about boundaries and the permission they are given,” Rodriguez explains.

Respect, setting an example, communication, rules, expressions of love and assertive communication are some keys, considering that in the transition from being a child to an adult, the brain is full of stimuli and emotions that are sometimes not well accepted by the elderly.

The way we communicate is therefore vital to dealing with the generation gap: “When fathers or mothers set a rule or boundary, this must be done so the young person understands it in their words, without confusing, threatening or attacking them and always with the purpose and perspective of encouragement. In other words, encourage them based on their best qualities,” he added.

Giving permission

A  responsible ‘no’

It is very important to explain why you do or do not give permission, as this justification makes teenagers feel more secure about their behavior and about complying with their responsibilities. When phrases such as “No, I’m in charge here and that’s it,” are used, teenagers become argumentative and communication is lost. On the other hand, when you have purpose-based arguments, you can communicate and be reflective. “What have you done to earn that privilege?” is a question that will make the child reflect and give them peace of mind with their parents’ decision.

Fearing the outside world

While many times the child deserves to be given permission, parents may not agree to the activity the child wants to do as they may consider it dangerous or inappropriate for their age, etc. As Rodriguez explains, “When you lay out all the cards on the table with a teenager and speak honestly with them, they are able to understand the good judgment their parents have, and may very well give a wonderful response such as: “Mom, you’re right, I’m not going to go,” or “Dad, trust me that you know who your son is.”

Too much repression

Family therapy professionals agree that what is repressed in childhood and in the teenage years, later explodes in adulthood and leads to aggressive, repressed adults or who repeat this pattern of behavior with their children, turning them into people who are insecure and have low self-esteem. Asking the right questions will help parents make correct and conscious decisions: Where are you going? Who are you going with? How long will you be gone? What address will you be at? What adults will be with you? All these questions are for their safety and protection.

Parents who disagree

If the teen receives two different messages, they will choose the one that best suits them. Setting boundaries should be a team effort, otherwise parents will lose credit when they are not on the same page. The response “Ask your Dad (or Mom)” is a sign of a lack of acknowledgement on behalf of the adult, which can hurt the family. One loving expression that the therapist recommends is: “We will talk about it and we will tell you later so that you have an answer,” which is a way to use proactive and appreciative language and shows a good example.

When they get angry

After not getting permission, several different situations can happen: your child can take the news respectfully, a dispute can arise or they can leave without permission. When they disobey, the following question is likely to pass through their head: Why don’t they let me if I am a good person? This is when communication becomes more important. Rebellious children need more support, more dialogue and messages must be repeated more often, “This is not an easy task, but if parents don’t do it, no one else will,” he added.

Respecting money

How much money you give your child is a decision each family must make. “My patients tell me that they estimate the cost of round-trip transportation and then they give them something extra to drink or eat something, or to buy something for a friend,” the professional explains. Rodriguez adds that when they spend too much money, young people end up developing unhealthy ways to interact with their peers. By giving them the minimum or just enough to go out, this teaches them to manage their finances and set priorities.

Alcohol consumption

The law in Colombia prohibits the sale of liquor to minors. Despite this law, it is still a valuable lesson for teens to learn by the example their family sets. According to Rodriguez, by allowing teens to have a beer or drink of rum at home, this is implicit permission for them to do so on the street. In addition to setting an example, it is worth assessing the values the young person is surrounded by to be able to decide to not drink that beer that their friends are having.