According to the New American Factfinder, the average family size in the US is 3.14 people. Out of the number of all families (related people living together) 49.6% have related children under age 18 and 44.8% have biological children living with their parents (of note for another post: 65% of female-only headed households have related children and 54.9% with biological children. It’s a shame that the number without dads is so high.)
“God setteth the solitary in families,” the Psalm says… Family is a place to be safe, supported, and loved. A shelter against loneliness and a soft place to land when you fall. A rock to brace when the rest of the world seems set against you.
It is mournful that family boundaries often are not providing a safe haven for children and adults.
Boundaries within the home are supposed to provide structure. But too often children are triangulated to be arbiters of the peace, or worse, used as pawns when disputes arise between adults. Parentified, codependent, projected on, scapegoated, indulged, catered to, doted over- all have very different meanings yet represent when healthy boundaries may have been breached between a parent and a child.
Boundaries outside of the family are supposed to provide appropriate exposure to the world while protecting and providing privacy. There are so many systems (employment, educational, community, other families, etc.) that families interact with. Family is supposed to teach children how to interact with these systems while upholding the child as an individual. Poor school performance, negative behaviors, societal expectations and more may be colored by the perception or opinion of outside systems and interfere with the child being cared for or affirmed. Healthy boundaries help adults in families keep perspective so that children are corrected if needed but cared for and affirmed always.
I have focused on how inappropriate boundaries affect children. That is appropriate because we have all been children. And as adults, we live with the consequences of not having the safety and support of healthy family boundaries. We will talk about creating those in our families later this week.
Healthy boundaries can be difficult to maintain in a family. How do you keep perspective when so many things threaten to breach your family’s safe haven? What advice would you give to others?