We need healthy boundaries with our children, but we also need bridges. Boundaries are good stewardship of ourselves. They help us know what is and what is not our responsibility. They help us keep in the good and keep out the bad.
The Bible says: The prudent, sensible, wise person sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple, foolish, inexperienced, naïve person keeps going and pays a penalty; they are punished and suffer for it. (Proverbs 22:3) NIV
But we need bridges too. Bridges help us connect, although we still need to be wise, especially when there is an unhealthy history to consider. Many of us have been disconnected wtih our children for a long time. Many reasons could be named. We’ve been sad, hurt, and at times mystified about what to do. Our goal has always been to have a healthy, loving relationship with our children, but the lines between boundaries and bridges can tend to blur. A lot of water has gone under the bridges we’ve attempted to build. Some were swept away or ruined because of the storms we encountered. Boundary lines faded or disappeared altogether in the fog of troubled times.
Many of us lost ourselves in our children’s chaos—I did. We spent too much time either keeping out the bad or over-helping. Their problems often became ours. We took on more than we should.
10 Helpful Tips
Several years ago, I attended a women’s event where I heard this list of 10 helpful tips for building strong bridges. I sure needed them. Maybe you do too. As they say in 12-step recovery programs, take what you like and leave the rest.
- Be intentional with what you sign up for: “Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.”
- Set healthy boundaries: “Am I reacting or responding to a situation or need”?
- Identify your own thoughts and feelings: “I feel______________________________.”
- Ask for what you need: “I need__________________________________________.”
- Take care of yourself: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
- Recognize your value: “What does the bible tell me about my value?”
- What does the bible say about guarding my heart from people who hurt me? (Read Proverbs 4:23)
- Remember this: Sometimes we think we are being helpful but we’re really being hurtful because we unknowingly interrupted what God wanted to do in someone’s life.
- Watch your words. “Words can bring death or life! Talk too much, and you will eat everything you say.” (Proverbs 18:21 CEV)
- We need a good support system to help us keep our boundaries and not feel guilty when we need to say no. We are to bear one another’s burdens, but in a healthy balance. Each is to carry his own load, to be responsible for themselves. (Galatians 6:2-5 NIV) You might want to try one of our support groups. Go to our website and look on the Support Groups page for an in person or online group that might work for you.
We need to build bridges with our troubled children to help us connect with them in healthy ways. Doing these will help: intentionality, healthy boundaries, identifying our feelings, asking for what we need, taking care of ourselves, recognizing our value, looking to the Bible for wisdom, staying out of God’s way, watching what we say, and establishing a good support system.
Which one of these tips do you need most today? Write it down and make it a matter of prayer. Confide in a trusted friend. Ask them to pray for you and hold you accountable.
Prayer: Mighty God, teach me what boundaries I need and how I can build bridges, showing love in a Christ-like way to my child. I need Your divine help. I am at a loss. Show me which one of these I need most and to whom I can talk. Thank you that You created me to need boundaries and help me build bridges that will stand the test of time. With Your help I believe I can.
Boundaries and Boundaries with Teens by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children by Allison Bottke