How To Help Tweens Establish Healthy Boundaries

How do you raise a tween with healthy boundaries?

Growing up is hard. Add in trying to create boundaries when you are still trying to remember your locker combination and your homework assignments and the whole thing looks like a big, insurmountable mountain. But boundaries and maturity are not mountains, they are foundational helpmates. When tweens and teens learn how to establish boundaries the right way they lay the ground work for strong, healthy, appropriate relationships that can last a lifetime.

Done right, boundaries also create a safety net around our tweens and teens without us, as parents, needing to hover over them or meddle in their business 24/7. We want our kids to learn to take care of themselves. Boundaries are an important step on the road to self-sufficiency.

How your tween sets up his or her boundaries is vital. Healthy boundaries have a direct impact on every area of life. Teach them now how to do it right.

So, how do you explain healthy boundaries to your kids? How do you help them understand how boundaries work and how to created them in their own lives?

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I suggest this model: The Circle of Self. This is a simple visual that will help emphasize where friends, family, and acquaintances fit in your tween’s life. So, grab some popcorn and fizz up your favorite flavor of Soda Stream and take some time to get the conversation started with your tween or teen.

Here is an example of the language you can use to jumpstart the discussion. You may also want to use this printable.

Okay, {Insert your kid’s name here} think of yourself as the center of a circle. Radiating out there are concentric circles. Within each circle is a group of people. Their proximity to you depends on which circle they are in.

Who controls that proximity?

You do.

The secret is to learn how to put people in the right circle.

Healthy boundaries are essential when building your Circle of Self. People who love you, are honest, supportive, caring and fun belong nearby, in your inner circle or in the next ring out. People who have only a couple of these qualities belong farther out.

Someone who is honest but not very supportive doesn’t belong in your inner circle. She or he belongs a little further out because while the honesty is important the lack of support is too. Someone who is fun to be around but not caring or loyal can be a great friend to see a movie with but is not someone from whom to ask advice.

It is just as important to keep some people distant as it is to keep others close.

Are you seeing the pattern here? How you set up your Circle of Self is vital to the protection of your heart, mind, and soul. Your boundaries will have a direct impact on every area of your life. By making sure you have healthy boundaries you will also have healthy heart connections, wholesome thoughts, and protected soul ties.

It is just as important to keep some people distant as it is to keep others close.Click To Tweet

As a parent you can take this discussion in a number of directions. You know your kid and you know what kind of further explanation they need. This dialogue will at least get you started on this important topic.

Some important questions to ask your tween are:

  • So how are you doing putting people in their proper circle?
  • Do you have some people that may need to be shifted around?
  • Can you tell me who is in your inner circle?
  • How about who is in a circle further out?

Most importantly, as you approach this subject and start to talk to your tween remember that you have a perfect example in Christ.

Jesus surrounded himself with 12 guys who were about as diverse as they come. But they were hand-picked by Christ himself. He knew who he needed to be surrounded by. He also knew who needed Him. He’s funny like that. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

These 12 guys had their whole lives transformed by Jesus, but they also gave him support, companionship, they were the ones who asked the hard questions that required parables, stories and even exasperation. Their questions are our questions, and I am so glad they were there to prompt a real-life explanation of this thing we call faith and model for us a great example of friendship.  In the end they died for Christ, just as He did for them. Wow!

Those are the kind of friends that belong in the inner circle, right?

After the 12 disciples there were 70 who followed Jesus around, who He personally sent out. Check out Luke 10 in your Bible. These were the workers, the ones who really started to spread the gospel and while they were not in the inner circle they were people Jesus trusted to get the word out. That trust was an integral part of their success. These people had significance in Jesus’s life but they also had a place outside of his inner circle. 

Finally, there were the masses. These were the people who followed Jesus from town to town or came to hear him speak in places like Capernaum or Bethsaida. This group was filled with people who wanted something from Jesus, like healing, but who gave little in return.

The key is He saw them for what they were, people with needs and He was willing to talk with them, pray for them and show them what true love really is. Many, many lives were transformed through that contact, so never underestimate the power of that outer circle.

In the same way, encourage a robust outer circle for your tween. His or her positive influence on that outer circle can change lives.

Take time to help your tween put his or her family, friends, acquaintances, and hangers-on into the right circles. You can even draw it out if you have a visual learner. Do whatever it takes to help your kid understand the basic concept and then put it into practice.

Each person in our lives needs to be in the right circle. Remind your tween that his or her inner circle shouldn’t be very big. Most importantly, it should filled with quality individuals who give and take in equal measure. As the circles radiate out those two elements should begin to change in relation to one another.

Creating a healthy Circle of Self is a key element to making healthy choices as your tween matures. I hope together you will take a look at the people around him or her and work together to create healthy boundaries so that the people in his or her life are in the proper “circle”.

The work you both put in to this area will reap immeasurable benefits for your tween and for you. Together you will see and feel your larger family community become a wonderful, healthy and vibrant place.

Proverbs 12:26a “The righteous person is cautious in his friendship,”

I’d love to hear how your tween or teen is doing creating healthy boundaries. Drop me a line and let me know.




If you are a parent who needs to work on healthy boundaries try this exercise for yourself. I also recommend Boundaries by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend.

About Debi Stangeland

I'm a wife, mom of tweens, & an outdoor lover. I'm passionate about sharing tips, tools, and fresh ideas to help families thrive. Off the blog you can find me reading, fly fishing, and drinking tea: hot, cold, whatever, I love it all. You are invited to join the conversation in my FB group:

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