What to Do When a Boundary Has Been Crossed

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What to Do When a Boundary Has Been Crossed

You probably already know this all too well, but children love to test the boundaries that their parents set for them. They will push the limits and see how much they can get away with. If you aren’t persistent and firm, they take that as an opportunity to cross the line. As they grow up, they learn more about what is right and what is wrong — but this still doesn’t silence their curiosity. Although your child is now a teenager, they are still enthralled with figuring out how far they can go.

They may be newly sober after spending time in addiction treatment, but returning home is yet another challenge. They will see what buttons they can push to get what they want. If you aren’t confident and consistent with your boundaries and consequences for your child in recovery, they will likely seize every opportunity they can get their hands on. It’s up to you to enforce the necessary consequences when your child has crossed a boundary. This isn’t going to be easy, but it’s crucial.

Be Calm and Consistent

A boundary means nothing if you are not willing to enforce consequences when the line has been crossed. It’s important that you hold your child accountable for their actions. They are aware that they have the power to make the choice between right and wrong. They also know that consequences accompany the wrong choice.

When a boundary has been crossed, remain calm. It’s important to be consistent with appropriate consequences each time your child crosses the line. By reinforcing your expectations, your child will understand their responsibilities. Consequences will not only show your child that you are serious, but they can also help your child understand the dangers of substance use and identify when their sobriety may be in danger. If a boundary has continually been crossed — even after consequences have been enforced — and you see no effort is being made by your child to adjust their behaviors, it might be time to seek a higher level of care.

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

If your child has crossed a boundary, you need to be able to communicate with them in a healthy way. It’s understandable that you might be frustrated and disappointed, but you cannot let these emotions cloud how you communicate. There is still an expectation that you will act in a respectful and honest manner. Try not to let your temper flare when you are communicating after a boundary has been broken. The more calm you are, the more your child will be willing to listen. If you raise your voice and turn the conversation into an argument, they will most likely shut down.

In addition, you must be firm with your child when they have crossed a boundary. If you give your child second, third, and fourth chances, they will never take the boundary seriously. Refrain from going back on consequences that you have previously laid out. Instead, be direct and firm. Your child must understand that you are not giving them what they want, but what they need. The way you communicate this is vital.

Parental Self-Care

Parenting a child with an addiction isn’t an easy task. Your child will try to test you and see what they can get away with. It’s not uncommon for parents to feel some level of burnout if their child is consistently crossing boundaries. You might find that you have low energy, less patience, and a lack of perspective as you continue to deal with difficult times. This is why it’s so important to make sure that you are taking care of your own well-being, too.

If your child has crossed a boundary and you feel like you are at your wit’s end, take a step back. You don’t have to react immediately when tempers are high, which can lead you to say things you don’t mean and create further problems. Instead, allow yourself to pause and collect your thoughts. Return with a plan of action when you have calmed down. Give yourself time to be sure that you are making the right decisions, and not just reacting based on your anger.

In addition, make sure that you are taking time to care for yourself. Parents can often get lost in caring for their child with an addiction. It’s understandable to want to do all that you can to help your child, but you cannot possibly care for them if you aren’t caring for yourself. If you are feeling burnt out, take time to help yourself refuel.

Act with Compassion, Not Control

It’s important to remember that although you might be frustrated and angry with your child for crossing a boundary or making a mistake, they still deserve to be treated with care and respect. Treating your child with compassion is essential, but make sure that you aren’t trying to control too much. If you are always making decisions for your child that they can and should make for themselves, you aren’t letting them figure out their recovery on their own. There comes a time when you must step back and let them make their own decisions. They will make the right decisions sometimes — but they will also make mistakes. The most important thing is that you give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Setting and enforcing boundaries can help greatly with this process.

Sustain Recovery is here to help you and your child throughout their addiction recovery. We know how difficult it can be to parent a child struggling with substance abuse. Working together, we can teach your family how to be successful in sobriety. To learn more, call us today at (949) 407-9052.

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I first met Sayeh in November of 2013 just after my 15 year old daughter had been admitted to a residential treatment program. As part of the program I was required to attend 2-3 AlAnon meetings a week. Sayeh attended the same AlAnon meetings as well as Alumni events as I. It soon became apparent to me that Sayeh had a heart for recovery, program, and God. When I was encouraged to get a sponsor I didn’t hesitate. Dependable, respectful, kind and generous of spirit, she exudes an inner peace that I hope to achieve with her loving guidance, as I work my own program. She is patient, & full of wisdom that she is always happy to share with her sponsees and fellow parents. I am so grateful our journeys brought us together.

Megan
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