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Boundaries at home

Having healthy boundaries takes a lot of practice. It isn’t something that comes naturally for a lot of people. Children, of course, do not have well-developed boundaries and so for adult foster parents who are working with kids, it can be a constant struggle to establish limitations that work for you and the children in your care. If you’ve ever been involved with a person who “power and control issues”, then you know what it’s like to work with people who have poor boundaries. If you’re trying to figure out what boundaries are and how to have healthy boundaries in your foster family, read on.

If you’re not familiar with the word “boundaries” or you’ve heard about it, but don’t really know what it means, don’t worry. You still have boundaries even if you don’t know anything about it. People have physical boundaries as well as emotional boundaries. These boundaries are like a fence that you put around yourself to define how close you’re willing to let people get to you physically or emotionally. It’s healthy to have a fence, but it’s also healthy to have a gate in your fence to allow people to go through the gate to get close to you with your permission.


Children who have been sexually abused often have very poorly developed fences around their physical bodies. They will let almost anyone get close to them physically. At the same time, these children may have very high emotional fences and they may not let very many people get close to them emotionally because of the sexual abuse that they’ve experienced.


In contrast, children who have been physically abused may have very high fences around their physical bodies. They may not know how to give hugs or how to feel physically safe with another person nearby. In contrast, they may be completely without a fence on an emotional level and feel as though their emotions are totally exposed to the outside world.


As a foster parent, when you have a fence around yourself, or healthy boundaries, you vicariously create boundaries for the children in your home. These boundaries dictate when it’s okay to give a hug and how the hug is administered. The boundaries say when it’s okay to use emotions to connect and when it is inappropriate. As you know, some people are naturally very affectionate physically while other people are very stand-offish and don’t enjoy hugs and touching. Physically affectionate people have healthy boundaries if they are able to respect other people’s boundaries while satisfying their own needs. And people who are less physically affectionate also have healthy boundaries as long as they can tolerate physical affection from other and again, meet their own needs and the needs of others.


As a foster parent, the fence, or boundaries that you place around yourself help your children to feel safe. Just as a fenced in backyard is often considered safer for children playing outside, a home where parents have healthy boundaries and impose restrictions and limitations on behavior is also safer. Boundaries help to keep relationships balanced and healthy where people exist as members of a group as well as individuals. They are an important component of a healthy foster family because they allow children and adults to be unique while still validating their continued membership in the family. Boundaries establish the line between you and others and keep you congizant of the fact that you need only control yourself and not everyone else. Teach children how to control their own behaviors by using disciplinary strategies that encourage this. And keep power and control over yourself if you want to start a trend toward healthy boundaries in your foster home.

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