The Importance of Creating Boundaries to Help Keep Kids Safe

4 min read

It can be a struggle for parents to create clear limits for their children. After all, when presented with the argument that “all my friends are doing it,” it can be tough to say no. Parents want their children to fit in and don’t want them to feel like outcasts. This struggle can take place in a number of areas, with one of the most dangerous being the use of drugs and alcohol.

It is common knowledge that many teens take part in underage drinking, drugs, and vaping. Parents who may want to stop it, however, are often not sure how to go about it. After all, if they forbid it, they worry that their teen may go underground and hide it from them. This could lead to them making unsafe decisions, such as driving under the influence. Due to this, parents may hedge their feelings with their teens. Some parents allow drinking alcohol at home so they won’t be tempted to drive. Other parents tolerate vaping and marijuana usage. As a result, they are not establishing clear-cut boundaries regarding what is acceptable and what is not. The justification is that it’s better to keep them safe, rather than draw a boundary against dangerous behaviors. The problem with this is that the desire to keep them safe may be actually having the opposite effect.

Creating Boundaries

When we allow our teens to make their own choices regarding their alcohol or other substance-use choices, we are not taking into account that they may not be developmentally ready to make those judgments. By parents not attempting to shut down dangerous behaviors to the best of their abilities, they may be inadvertently normalizing the activities and tacitly condoning them. As a result, teens may get it into their heads that it’s okay with mom and dad if they drink, vape, or experiment with drugs as long as they’re “safe” about it. This can lead to drug, alcohol and/or nicotine dependence which can follow them for years, sometimes the rest of their lives.

Often parents feel like they’re between a rock and a hard place. If they forbid the activities, they fear they are causing their child to go underground. Parents worry that clamping down can cause their teen to take unnecessary risks, such as driving while high or drunk, rather than call home and admit they were using.

Julia M. Cameron/Pexels

Source: Julia M. Cameron/Pexels

The Importance of Communication

Navigating these issues can be a very tough road for parents and unfortunately, there are no guarantees. However, if parents talk with their children and put clear boundaries in place concerning what is acceptable behavior and what is not, they will at least have a roadmap of what is expected of them. Parents who talk with their teens about their expectations have been shown to have a positive impact on their children’s decisions. The younger these discussions take place, the more prepared the child can be to deal with situations when they arise.

Emphasizing Safety

Establishing boundaries is important. At the same time, it’s also important to let teens know that their safety is the first concern. That means if for any reason they partake in anything that impairs them in some way, they can still call their parents to get them home safely.

The bottom line is that it’s important to let teens know the risks involved with substance use and what is expected of them. Setting boundaries of acceptable behaviors can help teens know their limits and be prepared to resist vaping, drugs, and underage drinking. It’s a discussion that can hopefully take place when emotions don’t get in the way, and a logical conversation can unfold. Teens have a lot of changes going on in their lives. When parents are clear on their expectations and boundaries, it can give teens a roadmap to help keep them safe.

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