No matter how we feel about it, there will come a point when our daughters will enter the world of romantic relationships and dating. If the thought of this and everything that comes with it – hormones, first dates, sex – make you uneasy, you’re not alone.
While we can’t make their decisions about relationships and dating for them, we can teach them about healthy boundaries, and that will help them make their own good decisions. The key here is that you teach her. While the need for boundaries may seem obvious to adults, teens don’t always have the knowledge or skills needed to form healthy relationships and maintain appropriate boundaries.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are six lessons about healthy boundaries you can start teaching your daughter right now.
Learning to Set Boundaries
#1: We have the right to say “no.” We also have the right to change our minds.
Teach your daughter that “no” is a complete sentence. She can say “no” to anything – becoming someone’s girlfriend, going on a date, kissing, and of course, sex. Teach her that she doesn’t need to give an explanation or an excuse. The fact that she doesn’t want to is reason enough.
Teach her that she can change her mind after she’s already said “yes.” If at any point she becomes uncomfortable with her decision, she has the right to change her mind. Let her know that nobody has the right to pressure her into something just because she initially thought she wanted to do it.
#2: Our worth and value doesn’t come from what we do for others, it is based in who we are.
Help your daughter find and honor her sense of self-worth. Help her identify boundaries that are aligned with and protect her self-worth, and let her know that not meeting another’s expectations does not mean she is less valuable or worthy of love, even if she is pressured to think otherwise.
#3: Trust your gut. It will guide you to do what is best.
Help her discover and protect her boundaries by teaching her to recognize and listen to the voice inside her. Teach her that if something feels wrong, she has the right to say no. Build her confidence in her own intuition so that she is less likely to go against it.
#4: A person who truly loves you will respect what is important to you.
Teach your daughter that someone who loves her will not try to change her friends, her relationships with her family, or her goals, dreams, or desires. Provided she is making healthy choices, a person who loves her will support and encourage her, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the things that interest her.
#5: It’s okay to have different opinions from those of your partner. Use your voice.
Teach your daughter that couples don’t always agree. Let her know that this is completely OK, and teach her how to disagree while honoring her partner’s thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Teach her that nobody has the right to stifle her voice, and that healthy, honest communication is part of a loving relationship.
#6: Your family will continue to be a safe place to discuss relationships. You will never be punished for choices you’ve made related to intimacy.
This can be a difficult one for parents, especially if there are strict family rules about romantic relationships in the teen years. I’m not saying change your rules. I am saying that she is more likely to come to you for guidance if she is not afraid of punishment. If you would like to keep her close during this challenging stage, create a safe space that includes compassion, understanding, and openness. Safe spaces encourage safe choices.
Your daughter is listening. Help her figure out and protect her boundaries to set a foundation for strong, loving, and healthy relationships throughout her lifetime.