Understanding healthy boundaries can help teenagers make good choices in their relationships and help protect youth against negative peer pressure. Since the idea of boundaries can be too abstract for some younger teenagers to understand, using activities that employ specific examples of how people set personal limits and establish trust can be a useful teaching tool.
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Role playing exercises can be a useful way to help teenagers understand the meaning of healthy boundaries and reinforce behaviors that are conducive to positive relationships. Because teenagers often think in concrete terms, it can be useful to provide them with hypothetical-yet-realistic scenarios and then ask them to demonstrate how they can maintain healthy boundaries. Teens could act out skits in which they maintain healthy boundaries when a friend asks them to do something they feel uncomfortable with, such as keeping a dangerous secret.
Assessment of Values
One activity to reinforce healthy boundaries is to ask teenagers to look at their goals and personal values. Looking at one’s core moral and personal beliefs and plans for the future can help teenagers define and maintain their boundaries. This activity could take the form of simply listing one’s goals and core beliefs. Teenagers could also create a “personal mission statement” that defines who they are as individuals and what they stand for. A personal mission statement can be creative and take the form of a poem or rap.
A relationship map is a visual tool that helps teenagers define who they trust and how they relate to others. To create a relationship map, the teen draws a circle with his name in the center. He then draws a larger circle around that first circle and writes the names of the people closest to him inside of it. He then draws another circle around that to include the names of more distant friends and acquaintances. This process continues, until the teenager defines his closest friends, casual acquaintances and those he chooses to keep “at arm’s length.”
Movies and Books
Another way to reinforce healthy boundaries in teenagers is to ask them to identify characters from their favorite books, movies and television programs that look at the kinds of relationships and choices these characters make. The teens can look for examples that demonstrate both poor boundaries and healthy boundaries, and justify their choices by reading passages aloud to their peers or by watching scenes from video programs as a group.