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Moms: How to Set Boundaries with Family and Children

July 27, 2023

A mother hugs their child after setting boundaries with them

The ONLY way I have time to read!

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. 

If you’re here it’s likely because you’ve been searching for help with “family boundaries” and “boundaries with kids.” 

This term has made its way around the mental health and well-being sectors and is a must at home, in the workplace, and within all other relationships. It’s also an important aspect of self-care because having boundaries allows us to have control over what’s going on in our lives and create a calmer environment that we can thrive in… but what ARE boundaries and what does setting boundaries with family and children look like?

Also read: Navigating your ‘no’s’ – What part of motherhood is hard to say no to?

What are healthy boundaries?

According to,

“Healthy boundaries are those boundaries that are set to make sure mentally and emotionally, you are stable. Healthy boundaries can help people define their individuality and can help people indicate what they will and will not hold themselves responsible for”.

Boundaries can be both emotional and physical and as a mom, it’s tough to create boundaries with your spouse, children, and even with your parents or extended family and friends. Sometimes, those we love most are the ones that require the most boundaries. This might mean putting up new boundaries with kids, or boundaries with your family. 

I used to think I was being selfish for putting my needs before others; but I am not, and neither are you.

Taking care of my own need for space, time, peace and anonymity is essential to showing up rested and authentic for my family.

I used to think it was selfish to say ‘yes’ to myself and ‘no’ to my family. I used to feel guilty for needing a break from my kids. I used to feel the need to answer the phone EVERY TIME it rang if I was within earshot of it because if I didn’t, I’d be ignoring whomever was on the other line, and that wasn’t nice. It was almost like I didn’t feel like I deserved my own space or my own boundaries and that I was responsible, in a sense, for their happiness.

That was me before discovering that having boundaries actually allows me to show up as a better and fuller version of myself because I’m not constantly filling the cups of others while allowing mine to run dry. So let’s get into it.

@diaryofanhonestmom You’re done, you’re done #relatablemom #relatable #motherhood #parenting #momlife #thehonestmom #honestmotherhood #realmomlife ♬ original sound – Nick Martin

Here are my top 5 tips to set healthy boundaries with family:

boundaries with kids Tip #1: It’s OK to Say No

The school is asking for volunteers. Your kids are asking for a double sleepover this weekend. Your partner wants to go out with their friends – in one hour, and you’ve just started making dinner. These are all moments where you are being asked for something and have the option to decline.

Saying no can be one of the simplest but most difficult actions to take when setting a boundary, particularly for people pleasers and empaths. See here for my thoughts on how I used to think I was an empath and people pleaser until I realized my childhood trauma conditioned me to be this way. We want to say yes because we want to make them happy, and when we don’t, well, mom guilt.

What made learning to say no easier was knowing it could be done in a kind and respectful way, and remembering that I am modelling a behaviour I want to pass on to my kids. By watching me say ‘no’ when I need to, they will understand it’s ok and follow suit.

Saying no in a nice way could look something like this:

Response to kid’s event – Having a double sleepover sounds like so much fun! It’s a lot of work for mommy and I want to make sure that I am prepared so how about we plan something for {insert date here}.

Response to spouse leaving last minute – Awh man that sounds fun. I would rather you postponed going until after dinner. I wasn’t prepared to do this on my own tonight and am already feeling overwhelmed.


Boundaries With Family Tip #2: Check in with Yourself

Kids are hungry, so you feed them. Partner had a rough day, so you console them. Your mom calls to talk about her new garden in detail, so you listen. These are examples of you giving yourself to your family and fulfilling their needs.

Checking in with yourself helps you to set boundaries because it ensures your needs are met either before meeting the needs of anyone else, or at the very least, simultaneously.

When was the last time you ate? Are you feeling ok? Do you need to take a moment to journal about something hard you’re dealing with right now? Have you been running around all day and need to rest? If you have an unmet need and your kids are asking you to play with them, your boundary would be letting them know that you can’t play right now because you need to fill your own cup, whatever that may be, and when you are finished, you’ll come play. (Or not! That’s ok too!)

Also read: Mom Journal – Why A Mom Diary will Help You Start Believing You’re A Good Mom

@diaryofanhonestmom fighting that guilt hard #momlife #motherhood #overwhelmed #respectfulparenting #relatable #relatablemom #honestmom #momlife ♬ оригинальный звук – Мария – Stories • SMM • Фриланс

setting boundaries with family Tip #3: What You Share is Your Choice

One example of physical and emotional boundaries that many women have been revealing they are not setting for themselves are the ones surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. I’m just going to list a few of the areas boundaries could be created because there are just so many: 

  • Who is in the room when the baby is born
  • What tests, procedures and medications you are ok with
  • Who comes to visit at the hospital
  • Who gets to touch the pregnant belly
  • What comments get to be made about the pregnant woman’s body
  • Any and all unsolicited parenting advice
  • Who visits family at home
  • Who holds baby


You don’t need to tell anyone ANYTHING that makes you uncomfortable. Your body, how you’re feeding your baby or where they sleep, and everything in between is personal and unique to you and your immediate family. No one needs to touch your belly, and no one has the right to hold your baby unless you are comfortable with it. So many moms have regrets about the boundaries they didn’t create during the delicate, fragile and intimate moments of their pregnancy and after the baby is born.

This applies to other areas of your life. If you don’t want your in-laws knowing your financial situation, that’s totally fine. Set a boundary.

If your sister believes that your parenting style is ‘too gentle’, respectfully let her know that you appreciate her concern and know that she is speaking from a place of love, but you are going to parent your children in the way that feels comfortable to you and that this is no longer a subject of discussion. In a nice way, of course!

Healthy Boundary Tip #4: Make a List

Not another list… Yes, another list! But THIS list will make it easier for you to complete the tasks on the other lists because setting boundaries can give you a sense of calm and control in your life, allowing you to focus on the lists on lists on lists.

Make a list of the moments that make you feel overwhelmed, stressed, angry, frustrated, upset or uncomfortable. Now, look at these situations and check to see if there is somewhere you could set a boundary that would help alleviate some of the surrounding negativity. I often look at the list and then prioritize them, then cross off the ones at the bottom so I can focus on what is most important and don’t get lost trying to fix everything all at once.

They don’t need to be big moments either. If making dinner with your kids running around triggers you, and they don’t play alone quietly for any length of time, have that be the time they’re allowed to watch their favourite show or play their favourite video game.

Boundary created: You are not ok with being surrounded in chaos while completing important time sensitive tasks, like cooking. See? When you break it down like this, it’s simple, right?

Also read: 3 Benefits of Journal Prompts for Mental Health

Boundaries with Family Tip #5: Ask for help

Asking for help can be really hard and is most certainly a part of boundary setting.

It is a boundary because it also lets others know we aren’t invincible and that our time is in fact limited. So maybe they can’t help, but they’ll be much more understanding the next time you do have to say no 🙂

 There are so many lovely people out there who would be willing to help us. Sometimes they even offer, repeatedly, but our response is always the same ‘Oh thank you so much! I’m ok though’. But we’re not. And that’s not ok.

You don’t need to be falling a part at the seams to say “yes please”. 

There is so much truth in the phrase ‘It Takes a Village to Raise a Child’, isn’t there?  So when you feel the need to be alone, daily, weekly, monthly, whatever it is you require, try and find your village. If there are no grandparents or caregivers that can step in, ask a friend, hire a babysitter if the budget allows, or, as noted in tip #4, use screen time. Remember: You DESERVE this. And the more you ask others for help, the more they’ll feel like they can do the same.

Also read: 10 Self Care Tips for Moms With Little to No Support System

The Boundaries With Family & Kids Helps Us to Enjoy Motherhood Because we Have Energy for the Yeses

I hope these tips helped you understand how to create healthy boundaries with your family and that you can feel good about it. This will help you show up more as the person you want to be by establishing strong values you hold for yourself, and will show your family that it is healthy, and that it’s ok, and that they can do it too!

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And remember to say no, more. You are worth it.

- Libby

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The ONLY way I have time to read!

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2 Responses

  1. Boundary #3 was written for me. Sharing with my family that I did not want immediate visitors after coming home from the hospital was hard, as everyone expected to be able to come that day. I also had to put in boundaries about kissing my baby girl because I quickly realized I was not comfortable with it. Looking back, I am SO glad I pushed through and kept my boundaries I wanted in place. I think this truly helped my mental state as a brand new mama. I will definitely repeat this if I have another!

    This post truly needs to be read by all new mamas and mamas-to-be!

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