Talk to the hand
January 14, 2013 4 Comments
One of the reasons why step-daughter is struggling so much right now is the fact that she hasn’t learned how to set boundaries for herself. Boundaries are kind of like being assertive (well, a lot like) but are centered around the ability to set limits not only on yourself, but on the people in your life in order to protect your own mental health and well-being. It’s a necessary skill and one that many people fail to learn for various reasons.
Step-daughter’s entire life has been centered around people that have not been good for her. She has made friends with every lost soul she could find. Between family dysfunction and needy friends, she has never quite learned how to figure out what is in her own best interests and how to set limits so that others don’t interfere with her ability to take care of herself.
She has been missing work (roommate has been too stoned to go and convinces her to stay home so she does). She loves her job. She would be completely devastated if she lost it but she doesn’t know how to set and enforce the limits she needs in order to make sure she can go to work when everyone else is staying home. It’s more than just “peer pressure”. It’s a lack of awareness and understanding and respect for yourself.
Some kids will naturally struggle with learning how to set limits and boundaries on others. Sometimes it’s a bit of a personality thing but even kids who by nature find this task hard, can learn to do it when it is necessary. But they have to learn how and learning this is often a trial and error process and should be done when they are still teenagers and still living at home and hopefully receiving the support of family / friends. Kids learn this by being put in the position of having to set their own rules and then live with the consequences of these rules (with support – not punishment). They learn this by being allowed to work out their issues with someone who gives them ideas and options and possibilities and asks questions so that they are forced to think of different answers and scenarios – but doesn’t give them the answers right away. Kids learn this by negotiating their own wants and needs with their parents/ caregivers versus being given everything they ask for without any effort. They don’t learn it just because they turn 16 or 18 or move out.
Step-daughter is still seeing her therapist and really is committed to the therapy she is receiving. Hopefully she will stay at a safe place long enough to start learning some of these skills before she jumps at the next “live happily ever after” scenario that comes along.