How to Establish Boundaries With Your Family

When classes first transitioned online, I felt excited to go back home. I knew I would have to return to Gainesville for summer classes (or so I thought), so it seemed like a mini summer vacation.

I didn’t realize how much I valued my independence until I was home for a couple weeks, with no time away from my family. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family to death. However, as soon as I was in my fairy-themed room for more than just a couple days, it felt like I was reliving middle school. I can no longer leave the house, and my privacy is nonexistent, making matters worse.

I am very lucky to have avoided the worst of the virus so far, and I am happy to hole up at home. But, we cannot discount the toll quarantine has on mental health. This is especially true when you do not assert your personal boundaries to those in your home. With the shared space, its easy to ignore the signal of closed doors, having to take a quiz while someone is blasting "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" in the next room. No boundaries are a recipe for meltdowns and disaster. With this in mind, here are some tips to help you adjust to life at home again:

Create a list of personal boundaries

Before you ask your family for what you want, make a list! Do you want more alone time? Quiet while working on schoolwork? Do you want to be treated differently? Make a list of your biggest issues and turn those into achievable boundaries to discuss with your family. You can be clear in what you need and refer back to the list if you forget something.

Don’t be afraid to talk about it

The best way to start is to sit your family down and establish your boundaries. It’s okay if you are nervous as long as you get your point across in a respectful and loving manner. You don’t have to meet with them all at once, but it may be easier to get it done in one shot. It also doesn’t have to be rehearsed. The most important part is that you state what is making you feel uncomfortable and come up with a compromise. Set up a time slot when the house has to be quiet or make a sign that they can put on their door. Just as much as you are feeling anxious, they probably are too. Maybe bringing up your frustrations will allow them to open up as well. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your family about this, then create a sign for your door that specifies they should not enter and demonstrate your boundaries through action.

Establish “family” time and “alone” time

I experience less interruptions to my alone time when I set up time to hang out with my family. Some family time ideas include watching a movie, putting together a puzzle, playing charades or participating in any other activity that does not involve breaking quarantine. It’s easy to forget to spend quality time with your family when you feel suffocated, but making allotted times should bring some balance. If you are not in a good place with your family, then sub out family time for Facetime with friends or hanging out with your siblings.

When it comes time for your alone time, make sure you choose an activity you can do in a secluded space, whether it be your bedroom, outside or elsewhere. This can be going for a walk around the block, taking a bubble bath, reading, painting or writing!

Get moving!

Exercise reduces stress, anxiety and depression. Just because we are quarantining doesn’t mean that we have to give up exercise. Plus, it’ll give you time to yourself. Use workout videos on your laptop, do yoga in the backyard, run around the block or use items around the house as weights. Whatever you choose, make sure to build it into your daily routine to improve your mood and health.

Don’t be afraid to say “no”

Have a jacket your sister won’t stop stealing? Or your mom won’t stop asking personal questions you’re not comfortable answering? It’s okay to say “no.” You are a capable adult even if you may be living with your family at the moment. If you feel your family is not respecting your boundaries, it’s okay to let them know. Don’t be aggressive, but make sure they know that there are things you would like to keep to yourself. If your family finds offense in this or you are scared to approach them, hide your items and change the subject when the prying questions won’t stop. Don’t feel guilty for having to say no to your family, it’s a part of growing up.

Now that you know how to implement your boundaries, take action. Don’t wait until you’re about to explode to address some changes that need to be made. For your own piece of mind, do this sooner rather than later. It will show your parents how adult-like you have become to demonstrate your needs in a respectful manner. We still have plenty of time in quarantine, so the time is now!