How to Set Healthy Boundaries: 10 Examples + PDF Worksheets

How to Set Healthy Boundaries: 10 Examples + PDF WorksheetsSetting boundaries is an important part of establishing one’s identity and is a crucial aspect of mental health and well-being.

Boundaries can be physical or emotional, and they can range from being loose to rigid, with healthy boundaries often falling somewhere in between.

This article will discuss what healthy boundaries are and how to set them, why healthy boundaries are important for self-care, and how to explain boundaries to adults and children.

 

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

According to IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program:

“A boundary is a limit or space between you and the other person; a clear place where you begin and the other person ends . . . The purpose of setting a healthy boundary is, of course, to protect and take good care of you” (n.d.).

In general, “Healthy boundaries are those boundaries that are set to make sure mentally and emotionally you are stable” (Prism Health North Texas, n.d.). Another way to think about it is that “Our boundaries might be rigid, loose, somewhere in between, or even nonexistent. A complete lack of boundaries may indicate that we don’t have a strong identity or are enmeshed with someone else” (Cleantis, 2017).

Healthy boundaries can serve to establish one’s identity. Specifically, healthy boundaries can help people define their individuality and can help people indicate what they will and will not hold themselves responsible for.

While boundaries are often psychological or emotional, boundaries can also be physical. For example, declining physical contact from a coworker is setting an important boundary, one that’s just as crucial as setting an emotional boundary, i.e., asking that same coworker not to make unreasonable demands on your time or emotions.

 

Healthy Boundaries and Self-Care

healthy boundaries self care

Healthy boundaries are a crucial component of self-care. That’s because “in work or in our personal relationships, poor boundaries lead to resentment, anger, and burnout” (Nelson, 2016).

Some teachers say that setting boundaries helps them avoid burnout and stay in the profession longer (Bernstein-Yamashiro & Noam, 2013). This is important because it indicates that healthy boundaries at work help someone find more fulfillment and less stress in their professional life—leaving room for a better personal life.

More generally, the consequences of not setting healthy boundaries often include “stress, financial burdens, wasted time, and relationship issues, which can cause mental distress” (Prism Health North Texas, n.d.). In other words, a lack of healthy boundaries can negatively affect all aspects of someone’s life.

Setting healthy boundaries can have many benefits, including helping people make decisions based on what is best them, not just the people around them. This autonomy is an important part of self-care.

In the context of recovering from substance abuse, self-care can include “meaningful connection with recovery support and children, taking care of physical health, maintaining spirituality, healthy eating, exercise, journaling, continuing education, staying busy, sponsorship, establishing boundaries, self-monitoring, abstinence, and dealing with destructive emotions” (Raynor et al., 2017).

Self-care like this “may serve to support the general health and well-being of individuals” (Raynor et al., 2017).

Self-care, which can include setting boundaries, is an important part of leading a mentally healthy life. But unlike more intuitive aspects of self-care like healthy eating and exercise, setting healthy boundaries isn’t something most people understand. For more people to experience greater well-being and fulfillment, they must learn about healthy boundaries.

 

10 Examples Of Healthy Boundaries

This leads to the question, What do healthy boundaries look like? The types of boundaries one might set depends on the setting. That is, one person’s healthy boundaries with a romantic partner will be very different from that same person’s healthy boundaries with a boss or coworker.

To start out, we’ll look at professional boundaries.

In a teacher-student relationship, a teacher might set healthy boundaries by choosing to keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives by not telling their students too much about their private lives (Bernstein-Yamashiro & Noam, 2013). Teachers can also begin each school year by telling students what they are and are not comfortable with. For example, teachers can tell their students they do not want to hear their students talking about illicit activities in the classroom.

Another way teachers can set boundaries is by telling themselves that they will not hold themselves responsible for every aspect of their students’ lives. That way, they won’t be too hard on themselves when a student suffers from something out of the teacher’s control.

Teachers are not the only professionals who can benefit from healthy boundaries. Mental health professionals also need to practice self-care and set healthy boundaries with their clients—they are not immune to stress and mental health disorders and might be even more vulnerable to those issues than the general population (Barnett et al. 2007).

One way that therapists can set clinical boundaries is by not connecting with their clients on social media (and being clear about this rule) so that they do not mix their professional responsibilities with their personal lives.

Of course, professionals are not the only ones who need to practice self-care by setting healthy boundaries. People can also set boundaries with their friends—even well-meaning ones.

For example, a woman in the middle of packing up her house for a move might not let a friend who dropped in unannounced stay too long—that way she can get done what she needs to get done (Katherine, 2000). Similarly, that woman might politely decline the same friend’s request to help her pack if she thinks packing should be a personal process (Katherine, 2000). Healthy boundaries can help manage demands on people’s time, not just malicious or thoughtless demands on one’s time or emotions.

Another setting in which healthy boundaries are crucial is in a romantic partnership. One example would be a person asking their partner for one night each week alone, as opposed to seeing each other daily. Another example would be a new mother asking her partner to take on more responsibility with their baby (such giving baths, going to the park with the baby, and so on) so that she can have more time to herself (Barkin & Wisner, 2013).

Rather than fostering resentment, one can instead try to set and communicate their boundaries. 

Finally, boundaries can be important in parent-child relationships. For example, parents might ask their child never to enter their bedroom without knocking first, in order to maintain some privacy. Children might ask their parents to never read their diaries or journals so that they can maintain some privacy of their own.

Parents can choose whether to respect a child’s proposed boundaries (they might reject some boundaries for safety reasons, for example), but it is important to be clear about the boundaries they do intend to respect in order to build trust with their children.

 

How To Set Personal and Emotional Boundaries

The first part of setting boundaries is examining the boundaries that already exist (or are lacking) in one’s life. For example, a woman might decide that she has healthy boundaries with her romantic partner, but not with her friends and coworkers. From there, she can decide what types of boundaries she wants to set with her friends and coworkers.

As for how to exactly set these boundaries, “Say ‘no’ simply but firmly to something you do not want to do. Do not feel that you need to explain” (Kairns, 1992). Not overexplaining is a crucial aspect of setting boundaries, as everyone has the right to determine what they do and do not want to do.

This brings up another important point: Keep the focus on yourself (IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program, n.d.). Instead of setting a boundary by saying something like, “You have to stop bothering me after work”, a person can say, “I need some time to myself when I get back from work.”

Another important thing to remember is: “It is impossible to set boundaries without setting consequences” (IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program, n.d.). This means that when setting boundaries, it is important to explicitly state why they are important.

For example, a person in an unhealthy relationship might declare that his partner needs to start respecting his career goals if his partner wants to continue being in a relationship with him. It is also crucial to only declare consequences that one is willing to follow through on, or else the boundaries will not be effective.

In general, the key to setting boundaries is first figuring out what you want from your various relationships, setting boundaries based on those desires, and then being clear with yourself and with other people about your boundaries.

 

Boundaries In Relationships

Boundaries in relationships can be especially important.

“When one person is in control of another, love cannot grow deeply and fully, as there is no freedom” (Cloud & Townsend, 2002).

In other words, healthy boundaries can be the difference between a healthy, happy relationship and a toxic, dysfunctional relationship.

A lack of boundaries can lead to an unhealthy relationship because one partner may feel that he or she has no privacy anymore (Hall Health Center Health Promotion Staff, 2014). However, too many boundaries can also be an issue, as in the case of people who refuse to spend time with the friends and families of their partners.

In the case of people in relationships who also have children, boundaries can be particularly important. For example, one research paper looking at self-care in new mothers highlighted a “willingness to delegate and the ability to set boundaries” as an important practical application of self-care (Barkin & Wisner, 2013). A new mother who can set boundaries with her partner in order to respect her needs will likely be better off than one who cannot, and this will help the relationship too.

The fact that boundaries are important in relationships underscores the importance of setting and respecting boundaries. It’s important to understand and respect each other’s boundaries in a long-term partnership, just as it’s important to respect the boundaries of people whom one does not know very well.

One good way to avoid crossing someone’s boundaries (and to avoid having one’s own boundaries crossed) is to have honest conversations about boundaries with people.

 

Healthy Boundaries Worksheets (PDFs)

For people who want to learn more about boundaries, here are some worksheets that deal with healthy boundaries and how they can affect one’s life.

What are Personal Boundaries?

This worksheet explains the difference between rigid, porous, and healthy boundaries and the different areas in which one might set boundaries (such as physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, and sexual boundaries). After learning from this worksheet, you can explore your own boundaries with the supplementary exercise, also from Therapist Aid.

How to Create Healthy Boundaries

This worksheet also describes different types of boundaries one might set and also offers tips for setting those boundaries.

Drawing Effective Personal Boundaries

This worksheet asks the readers to list some situations in which their boundaries might be crossed and then asks them what types of actions they can take to confront in an appropriate manner the people who have crossed their boundaries.

Setting Healthy Personal Boundaries

This long worksheet is an excellent way to learn more about boundaries, determine if one needs to set more boundaries, and set those boundaries and stick to them.

Building Better Boundaries

This is less of a worksheet than it is an entire workbook (it’s more than 60 pages), but it can facilitate a deep dive into the topic of boundaries. It teaches the reader what boundaries are and how to set them in different situations.

 

Boundaries Worksheets for Kids and Parents (PDFs)

Teaching children the importance of boundaries is a crucial part of parenthood. This can be hard, though, if parents themselves don’t understand the importance of boundaries. Here are some worksheets and other resources that parents can use to teach their children (and themselves) about the importance of boundaries, both between children and their parents and between children and other people.

Boundaries  

This worksheet will help children differentiate between rigid, clear, and fuzzy boundaries, and will also help them think about boundaries in their own lives.

Healthy Boundaries, Healthy Children

This worksheet is not for children, but rather for parents who want to teach their children about boundaries. It explains the importance of setting boundaries for children, then gives tips on how to teach them about boundaries. This is an excellent starting point for parents who are not sure how to set appropriate boundaries for their children.

Boundaries and Expectations Exercises

Livestrong.com provides helpful information on establishing boundaries that can be accessed here (Scottsdale, 2015). There are tips for parents of children of all ages, from toddlers to high schoolers. The article explains how using the word “no” can establish early boundaries for toddlers, and also explains the importance of extending trust to adolescents when they have earned it.

 

A Take-Home Message

Setting healthy boundaries is a crucial part of life and an important aspect of any self-care practice. Someone who’s not used to setting boundaries might feel guilty or selfish when they first start out, but setting boundaries is necessary for mental health and well-being. Appropriate boundaries can look very different depending on the setting, and it’s important to set them in all aspects of one’s life.

Finally, while setting boundaries is crucial, it is even more crucial to respect the boundaries that others have set for themselves. This goes for parents, children, romantic partners, bosses, coworkers, and anyone who interacts with or has power over anyone else. Respect is a two-way street, and appreciating the boundaries others have set for themselves is as important as setting boundaries for oneself.

How easy is it for you to set healthy boundaries? Do you have any tips for setting and respecting healthy boundaries? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

  • Barkin, J.L., Wisner, K.L. (2013). The role of maternal self-care in new motherhood. Midwifery, 29(9), 1050-1055. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2012.10.001
  • Barnett, J.E., Baker, E.K., Elman, N.S., Schoener, G.R. (2007). In pursuit of wellness: The self-care imperative. Professional Psychology-Research and Practice, 38(6), 603-612. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.38.6.603
  • Bernstein-Yamashiro, B., Noam, G.G. (2013). Establishing and maintaining boundaries in teacher-student relationships. New directions for youth development, 2013(137), 69-84. doi:10.1002/yd.20049
  • Cleantis, T. (2017, May 25). Self Care Skills for Relationships. Retrieved from http://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/articles/cleantis/self-care-skills-relationships
  • Cloud, H., Townsend, J. (2002). Boundaries in Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Hall Health Center Health Promotion staff. (2014, January). Healthy vs Unhealthy Relationships. Retrieved from http://depts.washington.edu/hhpccweb/health-resource/healthy-vs-unhealthy-relationships/
  • IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program. (n.d.). Setting Boundaries with Difficult People. Retrieved from http://new.ipfw.edu/affiliates/assistance/selfhelp/relationship-settingboundaries.html
  • Kairns, D.M. (1992). Protect yourself: set boundaries. RN, 55(3), 19-22.
  • Katherine, A. (2000). Where To Draw The Line: How To Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day. New York: Fireside.
  • Nelson, D. (2016, December 8). Self-Care 101: Setting Healthy Boundaries. Retrieved from http://www.dananelsoncounseling.com/blog/self-care-setting-healthy-boundaries/
  • Prism Health North Texas. (n.d.). Establishing Healthy Boundaries. Retrieved from http://www.prismhealthntx.org/establishing-healthy-boundaries/
  • Raynor, P.A., Pope, C., York, J., Smith, G., Mueller, M. (2017). Exploring Self-Care and Preferred Supports for Adult Parents in Recovery from Substance Use Disorders: Qualitative Findings from a Feasibility Study. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 38(11), 956-963. doi:10.1080/01612840.2017.1370520
  • Sabin, J.E., Harland, J.C. (2017). Professional Ethics for Digital Age Psychiatry: Boundaries, Privacy, and Communication. Current Psychiatry Reports, 19(9), 55. doi:10.1007/s11920-017-0815-5
  • Scottsdale, B. (2015, August 22). How to Develop Age-Appropriate Boundaries in Children. Retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/353414-boundaries-expectations-exercises/

About the Author

Joaquín Selva is a writer who was first introduced to psychology through behavioral neuroscience research. This research experience was focused on addiction with the hopes of ultimately helping people change their habits. Joaquín was born in Nicaragua, now lives in the United States, and believes positive psychology teachings can improve people’s lives in both countries.

Comments

  1. Crystal Quintero

    This is really amazing! I personally have been struggling with boundaries. Reading through this made me realize that I have none whatsoever! Time for me to learn and apply these great tools. THANK YOU!

    Reply
  2. Rachelle

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
  3. Iosha

    I really appreciate this article. I didn’t realize how much I needed help with this but I am horrible at boundaries and I plan to utilize this worksheet to improve.

    Reply
  4. Farrah

    The is really a great resource for myself and others! Thoroughly enjoyed it through the entire article..

    Reply
  5. Earvin

    Thanks for posting this! Very informative.Looking forward for your next post!

    Reply
  6. cg

    Many Thanks! A positive approach to understanding and defining the benefits and concepts of boundaries. Age appropriate elements of this discussion should be presented during phases of schooling; elementary, middle and high school.

    Reply
  7. Aika

    Great read! This is very informative! Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and healthy life in general. Having healthy boundaries means knowing and understanding your limits.

    Reply
  8. Myrhi

    Awesome!!! Really really helpful for all aspects of my life. Thanks so much for sharing!!!

    Reply
  9. Nikita Corbiere

    Thank you for the information! It has been so helpful in my Mental Health Field. The worksheets were so easy to follow.

    Reply
  10. Chandricka Pasupati

    thank you. it was very helpful.

    Reply
  11. 🐞Ladybugg C.

    Thank You Joaquin!
    Great for Independent CBT studies.

    Reply
  12. HENRY

    Brilliant work. Utterly useful and helpful.

    Reply
  13. tammie melendez

    I work in a recovery home and this article is very informative to the clients. the women in the home are learning to practice healthy boundaries. thank you for your service!

    Reply
  14. Marlene

    Was good to read today. It’s good to remember sometimes we need to re evaluate our own boundaries when life goes sideways.

    Reply
  15. Alison

    Excellent resources! Thank you for this work.

    Reply
  16. Charles Vallega

    You are fantastic!!! It changed my life! It gave me clarity!!! This help me climb to the next level of relationships!!! Thank you for your work!!!

    Reply
  17. Caz

    As someone who has had ongoing frustration without a name, thank you! I finally know what the problem is, and what it’s called. I’m surprised at your resources and have bookmarked this. I feel that understanding this will be a good idea., though it’s probably several years old I also liked the thought that healthy boundaries are where you have put a lot of thought into them, that they create working relationships. People may feel boundaries are obstacles, but it seems healthy ones are the opposite. They enhance relationships and allow you to be who you really are. I can think of quite a few friendships that failed because of this, and a professional relationship or two. I had some of these, but wasn’t that good at implementation outside of the home. I checked out your wksts and they are surprisingly easy on the eyes. Can’t imagine the time it took to put these together with references. I’ve had a friendship end with healthy boundaries put in place, from what I know. Now I understand better that some of the people I know and admire have this in common: clear boundaries and consequences, even if the consequences aren’t apparent. With healthy boundaries, perhaps one can establish more confidence and feel more comfortable in one’s skin. I enjoyed the read.

    Reply
  18. Estelle Bailey

    Fatanstic resources! thanks very much

    Reply
  19. Josh

    Hey, Keci Reynolds. Thats top notch Christianity there. From an agnosticy person.

    Reply
  20. Keci Reynolds

    This is perfect for what I am working on with my small group at church. Thank you much.

    Reply
  21. Shelly Sowell

    This is fantastic! Thank you for taking the time to create this super helpful document. I’m working on a 4 day workshop with a school on tech and child brain development and will use many things from this. Happy New Year!

    Reply
    • Craig Smith

      Hi Shelley, thanks for the feedback, I’m glad to hear the article was of value!

      Reply
  22. Lisa Lucas

    Hi just wanted to touch a little on what I believe is an unhealthy boundaries respect me, love me like me or you cannot have a relationship with your grandchildren.
    To me a healthy boundaries have to do with behaviors not feeling or emotions ie respect the rules don’t use bad language.
    Also I have tried to explain this to my daughter in law.
    We can choose not to go around people who don’t respect you or don’t like you but we cannot break relationship with other people ie grandchildren in an unhealthy way.
    Respect is a two way street and once respect is lost it needs to be earned.

    Reply
    • Craig Smith

      Hi Lisa, thanks for continuing the conversation 🙂

      Reply
  23. KD

    How do you set boundaries when the other person just wont listen. I tell him no over and over again but he keeps on going! I have explained his actions make me uncomfortable and please respect me. Just doesnt sink in. Then when I get angry st him he just says just get used to it. Please, what can I day to get him to respect my personal boundaries

    Reply
  24. David

    One thing I would love you to address in setting boundaries as I have had it happen to me and had the person claim they are setting personal boundaries.
    When in fact it took me a bit to realize they where using a combination of gaslighting and simply refusing to ever talk or make time for something important.
    It’s just boundaries are all nice,butsetting them and having a lack of communication practices like ensuring emotional validation happening is happening and that both using boundaries to constantly avoid emotionally validating someone’s experience is a form of emotional abuse that should not be tolerated.
    With 38% of the population experiencing emotional abuse and those in families that experience it tending to have maladaptive beliefs that propagate it, we need eliminating it to be integrated into more things I think.

    Reply
  25. Vivien Garber

    Thank you for spelling it out for me. I have to establish some heavy boundaries with abusive family, and you gave me a lot of advice on how to stand firm, when to walk away, stay calm and speak up. It will help me uphold my boundaries. The good news is I am starting fresh with my toxic family. I am laying down some very basic boundaries with how I would like to be treated and respected. I think I would like writing correspondence only at this time and we will see if they can respect it. If they do, we will graduate to a boundary like email, and if it goes well we may progress to talking on the phone, then maybe one day, seeing each other again. We will see what happens but your worksheets are giving me a backbone. I have the right to be respected and I will never let them compromise my integrity.

    Reply
  26. Leigh

    OUTSTANDING! Well written, clearly explained & easy to understand.

    Reply
  27. la

    a church used book ” boundaries” by cloud and townsend to do a court session not counseling. It was totally out of order, twisted. This pastor/elders in my meeting with my daughter/J. told me the verdict they reached that my daughter should stay away from me, don’t speak, don’t let her see the grandkids. I was in shock. No love, no healing, no restoring but destruction to our relationship. I do not recommend this book. IT makes grandma’s out to be something of secular humanism and tv. It not so with everybody. People use this book to get rid of learning God’s love and learning to recognizing a family curse which needs prayer . People want smooth things and their is no repenting to restore. This book is for extreme circumstance not a manual for everyday life. Healthy boundaries is with cult churches that say they are your family not your parents who don’t know anything. Healthy boundaries are with relatives outside your core family. Secular humanism is all about ME. There is a balance.

    Reply
  28. Jazzmen Fox

    Thank you for sharing this! I tried to find healthy tips for boundaries and people with BPD. Everything I found was for someone dating a person with BPD and talking about how bad they are in relationships. I have it and I know boundaries can be an issue for us. However nobody addressed the fact that we struggle to set boundaries with our partner. This was so helpful.

    Reply
  29. Erika

    🙏 thank you for making a clear guideline available to help people with boundaries! This opens a door to end suffering… thank you, 🙏 thank you!
    In deep gratitude,
    ❤️
    Erika

    Reply
  30. April Zollicoffer

    This is changing my life! Thank you!

    Reply
  31. Leslie

    I just went to a counselor and recommended me to read this article. I am a codependent and honestly it sucks. It has lead me to have low self esteem, doubts myself, and even think I am the one who is wrong/crazy. Now that I know I lack on setting boundaries, I know what to work on now.Thank you for this article.

    Reply
  32. Christine Rophe/bewley

    In the article “Healthy Boundaries: The Why and How Of Setting Them” there are several picture, including the dog sitting on the cat. I would like to use this picture in a book I am writing. I would appreciate having someone contact me and let me know if that is possible? Thank you, Christine Rophe-Bewley

    Reply
  33. Tenneh Hollins

    Thank you so much for this information. I am a substance use disorder counselor and will use this information to help my clients in setting and maintaining healthy boundaries.

    Reply
  34. MC

    Thank you for so many resources! This was the most helpful article I have found so far.

    Reply
  35. Valerie Withers

    I have chronic ptsd and I am a 54 year old Christian.I was saved at age 12,but psychologically messed up from years of physical,sexual,and psychological abuse from close family members.By the time I was 21,I was a divorced single mom on welfare.I also joined abusive cultlike churches.I have a therapist,I do emdr twice a week,can go out of my home very little,and am now married to a godly man.Ptsd is a tricky neurological disease from the brain being in constant fight or flight mode.Excercise,eating healthy,not working and absolutely not helping anyone is my routine.I will never be able to be in the same room with a drinker smoker or addict again.I have very strong boundaries now,the second they are crossed,that individual is gone.I am a ball of stress.I can barely handle shopping at the grocery store.I am called weak,leting satan isolate me,and in a fast paced world,i have to be slow.I have outbirsts of anger if I feel threatened or even the thought of being around the familiar.Jesus does not protect us if we choose disobedience of any kind.Or keep company of those that are disobedient.I live a pretty set apart life.I do not sit in the seat of the sinners,or take council of the ungodly.I am called udgemental because I am not ok with paying for the sins of others anymore.

    Reply
    • Tamera Gardner

      Valerie,
      I can tell that you are in a lot of turmoil socially and spiritually. I too have chronic illnesses that kept me isolated for years. You said part of your routine is “absolutely not helping anyone”. My freedom began when I decided that my hard-working, crisis-navigating husband deserved for me to be happy and that I absolutely had to start pouring something of myself into someone else. I learned years ago that the Dead Sea is dead because it has no outlets. So, instead of the continual mantra of what I can’t do, I asked myself, “what CAN I do”? I started by doing small things for my husband- smiling, relaxing, telling him I appreciate him. Then I bought some cheap boxed birthday cards and began sending them to my extended family. For the kids I would put in $5. Then I started reaching out to others with chronic illness, like this post. As I began to feel better, I pushed past discomfort and started reaching out to women in my community and making some lifelong friends. I taught a bible study. I feel better now than I have in 14 years. God can use you to minister to others if you will let Him and He will heal you.

      Reply
      • Benjamin Pitt

        What a wonderful reply. You hit the nail on the head! We are not meant to isolate ourselves and judge who is or is not holy, pious and or perfect, or Godly among those that grace or door, we are to leave their judgement in His worthy hands and do as His son commanded and love our neighbors (all mankind) as ourselves. Your husband is a very blessed man and your testimony gives me hope, thank you and God bless you.

        Reply

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