New Baby? Six Tips for Setting Boundaries with Family

We know boundaries are important, but what about

Boundaries. It seems that we hear about them frequently. Whether it’s boundaries at work or with friends and even with family. It’s often brought up, especially when talking about conflict in relationships.

For some, a common phrase you may often hear is, “you need to set boundaries.” But how do you set those boundaries? And what does it exactly look like to set them? Keep reading to learn more.

grandmother talking to her grandson

Setting boundaries with family

The way we set boundaries will look different based on the person we are setting them with. And the way you enforce those boundaries may look different as well. The reality is that every person is different, and that impacts how they show up in relationships. 

As a parent – and especially a mother – you have likely been on the receiving end of unwanted advice on how to best parent. It has come from strangers at the supermarket or fellow moms at drop-off, and unfortunately, sometimes from our loved ones. Those same loved ones that we value their opinion so much.

Trying to figure out how to set them can feel tricky, and the difficulty intensity can rise when setting boundaries with our loved ones.

While boundaries with family may feel difficult, they are not impossible.

Setting boundaries, especially when making parenting decisions that differ from how you grew up, can be challenging. On the one hand, there can be a strong pull not to want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but on the other hand, not speaking up is hurting your feelings and, in the long term, your relationship with those loved ones. 

While boundaries with family may feel difficult, they are not impossible. There are minor changes that you can implement to make lasting changes in our close relationships. More on those below.

grandpa with baby on his shoulders

Tips for setting boundaries as a new parent

Here are six tips for how to set boundaries specifically with loved ones as you move throughout your parenting journey. 

Keep in mind: healthy boundaries communicate to others how each person would like to be treated with the end goal of cultivating a thriving relationship.

1. Reflect on yourself first

Before we get into how to talk with others about our boundaries, we need to start with ourselves. Take some time to reflect on what setting boundaries mean to you.

  • Were they discouraged growing up?
  • Were they used to keep others out?
  • How have setting boundaries made you feel in the past? Scared? Nervous? Disrespectful?

Take the time to intentionally reflect on your feelings and thoughts about setting boundaries and write it down. There is no right or wrong answer.

The point of this exercise is to become aware of your perceptions of boundaries as they probably come up when you set them with others. 

2. Identify what boundaries you want to set

Now that you have reflected on yourself, continue the reflection and identify in what areas you’d like to see change.

  • Are you wanting to speak to your loved ones about how your time availability to attend certain events is limited because of the sleep schedule with your baby?
  • Are you wanting to speak to your loved ones about the hurtful comments they’ve said regarding what you choose to feed your growing baby?
  • Do you want to address the comments about how best to discipline your assertive toddler?

Whatever it is, write it down. The practice of writing them down can help with becoming clear with yourself about what boundaries you are needing to set. 

3. Practice, practice, practice

As a therapist, I am a big fan of role playing and practicing what you want to communicate to another person. There is something healing about knowing what you want to say, and hearing yourself say it aloud.

It can help with building confidence in yourself as you’re about to navigate this potentially stressful situation. 

Read next: How to Set Boundaries with Family After a Baby Is Born

grandma and grandson holding hands

4. Run through all the worse case scenarios

One barrier I have found people have regarding setting boundaries is feeling like they won’t be received well or that the boundary will instantly fail. To combat this, say aloud all the worse case scenarios you can think of.

This tip is especially useful if you can do it with a trusted person or even a therapist. The other person can provide some needed reassurance for you.

Whether or not you practice with another person or with yourself, remember that you are not responsible for the reaction of others as you set boundaries. I know it will feel like it but truly, the other person’s reaction is their responsibility. Repeat that to yourself often. 

5. If possible, set the boundary on your terms

This means, you don’t always have to set boundaries right in the moment that the negative interaction happens. That is the ultimate goal but starting off it may feel a bit better to speak with the offending person in private about what occurred and what your boundary is.

The thing with setting boundaries is that the more you practice, the better you will get. The first few times that you set the boundary, you may be a little nervous and that is okay.

A phrase I often use to encourage my clients is, “Speak even if your voice shakes”. It’s all about small steps towards making lasting change. 

6. Keep trying

Lastly, what if the boundary isn’t respected? Keep trying.

Boundary setting is hard and honestly, most of us didn’t grow up being shown how to set those boundaries. So keep trying. Maybe consult with a friend or seek support from a therapist or continue to read articles like these that help encourage you to speak your truth.

If a boundary isn’t respected, reflect on what you need to do to uphold your boundaries and protect your mental well-being. I know this can be hard for some to think of removing themselves from a situation, however, remember we can’t change others.

We can communicate our needs, but ultimately, it is our responsibility to keep our peace. 

A bonus tip for setting boundaries

It can also be helpful to see how other people set boundaries for themselves.

A book that I have found helpful in setting boundaries with others has been Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover.

The author did a fantastic job in providing examples of setting boundaries and discussing the impact that a lack of limits can have on our mental well-being. 

Final thoughts on boundaries with a new baby

As you navigate through setting boundaries, especially in parenting, know that you aren’t alone. It is a tricky situation.

Find your community, whether online or in-person, to help with finding encouragement in those tough times. Remember, one small step can make a profound difference in making a change. You’ve got this!

Veronica Eyo

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Dr. Veronica is a licensed clinical social worker. It's her passion to help mamas - both new and seasoned - navigate the challenges of parenthood. She has specialized training in working with mothers, especially supporting mothers of color. Supporting women through various walks of life is one of her guiding posts and something she continues to strive for through her work daily.

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