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Do you work with adolescents as a teacher, counselor, tutor or coach? Have you ever been in an awkward situation because one of the kids crossed a personal boundary line?
It's important to remember that teens may be confused because different adults have different boundaries, and boundaries for the same adult may shift depending on the circumstances.
The following passage from What Works with Teens helps us to clarify for ourselves what line has been crossed so we can guide adolescents toward appropriate boundaries. It's posted here with permission from New Harbinger Publications.
Boundaries are challenging aspects of working with adolescents. We may provide an extra warm response one day… and then feel annoyed another day when a young person expects a similar response and we just can’t be available in the same way… Imagine how difficult it must be for adolescents to know what is appropriate. How must they feel when they are in our office sobbing one day, and the next day we interact with them in an official capacity and businesslike manner?
… Providing them with clear expectations and guidance on navigating this confusion will allow you to preserve their relationship with you even when you must set limits or do something that will disappoint them…
When you find yourself in a situation in which you are uncomfortable with a boundary issue, consider the following:
1. What is it, specifically, that the young person is doing that is crossing a line for me?
2. Have I allowed the adolescent to cross this or a similar boundary in the past?
a) If no, proceed to question 3.
b) If yes, think about why it is triggering you in this circumstance.
3. Have I ever stated a limit around this in the past?
a) If yes, consider restating the limit in a gentle and caring manner, reminding the teen that this is a line that you cannot cross.b) If no, apologize for not having said something sooner, and empathize with how it might feel to have a limit set now. Then clearly state your limit.
Excerpted from pages 86-88 of What Works with Teens: A Professional's Guide to Engaging Authentically with Adolescents to Achieve Lasting Change by Britt H. Rathbone, MSSW, LCSW-C & Julie B. Baron, MSW, LCSW-C © New Harbinger Publications, 2015. Reprinted with permission. www.newharbinger.com
Mindfulness for Teachers and Teens (interview)
Restorative, Not Punitive, Responses to Youthful Wrongdoing (Interview)
THINK Before You Speak: Case Studies in Mindful Speech
What Works with Teens (recommended book)