How to Help Your Teen Set Boundaries with Friends (Especially if They’re Too Nice)

Help your teen protect their heart, happiness, time and well-being

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: How to Help Your Teen Set Boundaries with Friends (Especially if They’re Too Nice)

Written by: Marybeth Bock

Remember how important our friends were to us when we were teenagers? We loved them like family. We relied on them for everything… advice about dating and relationships, a listening ear when we had a crummy day, a good laugh when we needed it most, and, of course, to be our partner in crime every now and then when we were feeling rebellious. 

Fast forward a few years and here we are… 

Our kids’ friends are their world. And, as much as we sometimes feel a little left out (seriously, can’t they hang out with us just a little more?), it’s an important and necessary part of their development, their identity, and their slow and steady separation from us. 

However, as much as we inherently know that our kids’ friends make them happier and psychologically healthier, it’s hard to sit back and watch when their friends cross boundaries.

A needy friend who constantly talks about their problems, their life, their accomplishments, a jealous friend who doesn’t give our kids room to breathe, or a friend who underhandedly puts our kids down (with a friendly smile on their face, of course) – sometimes, our kids need a little help seeing things for what they are and helping them set boundaries to protect their heart, happiness, time, and mental well-being.  Here’s how to help your teen set boundaries with friends. 

How to Help Your Teen Set Boundaries with Friends


Why Teen Friendships Can Be So Contentious

To say a ton is going on developmentally with our teenagers is an understatement. It’s a period of tremendous growth and change. It also happens to be a time in their life when confidence drops (both for girls and boys), when they’re desperately trying to figure out who they are and when they’re trying to find their place socially – all while dealing with a boatload of hormonal, physical, and psychological changes. 

It’s no wonder friction, drama, jealousy, gossip, and vying for position in the social hierarchy are at their peak. 

Of course, there isn’t a way to fully eradicate all the struggles our kids might face socially (nor should we), but we can guide them, help them find their voice, and help them learn to stand up for themselves to avoid feeling exhausted, drained, manipulated and possibly even taken advantage of. 

What Are Boundaries?

According to SocialPro, boundaries are the ‘rules’ of any relationship that guide the way two people interact, including things that are expected, okay, and not okay to say or do. In our teen’s world that can mean a myriad of different things.

Consider These Scenarios:

  • Your daughter has a girlfriend who is extremely needy and controlling of your daughter’s time. Although she’s a good friend, your daughter always feels drained after spending any time with her bottomless friend who takes and takes and never seems to give. As much as she loves her friend, she’s not sure how to handle the situation without hurting her feelings. 
  • Your son has a classmate who’s never prepared for class. At least once a week, his classmate begs your son to copy his homework. Your son doesn’t want to appear petty or “uncool,” but he’s tired of being taken advantage of and wants to put an end to it. 
  • Your daughter has a boyfriend whom she adores, but lately, he’s becoming more controlling of her time getting irritated when she spends time with her girlfriends. She’s worried about how he might react, but she needs to let him know she’s not happy with how he’s acting.
  • Your son’s girlfriend won’t admit her jealously, but your son has admitted that he’s seen her sneak his phone and scroll through his messages. He’s doesn’t want to cause a full-blown fight, but he knows this has to stop.
  • Your daughter’s group of friends have been together for years and they’re tight. But lately, they’re becoming very judgy always gossipping about others and putting them down, and it’s making your daughter uncomfortable. She needs to tell them that she’s not interested in taking part in the gossip… but how. 

What Teen Boundaries Might Look Like

When our teens are getting along well with their friends, all seems right in their world. But when friendships become strained and conflicts arise, it can be hard for teenagers to communicate their needs calmly, honestly, and without drama. All too often, they just “let it go,” but they shouldn’t.

According to Sana Powell, M.A., LPC, a psychotherapist in Texas who writes about diverse mental health issues, it’s important teens keep in mind that “healthy boundaries can look different across different friendships.”

Examples to Help Your Teen Set Boundaries

“Since you chose where we got food last time, I’d love to choose the place this time.”

“I can talk for about 20 minutes, but then I have to get back to my homework.” 

“Sometimes I get behind on responding to texts, so don’t take it personally. I’ll respond as soon as I can.”

“I’m excited to spend time with you, but right now I need some alone time to recharge.”

“I feel too upset to continue talking about this. I’d really appreciate it if we came back to it later.”

“I’d love to talk right now, but I have a lot of homework to catch up on. Can we talk tomorrow?”

“I’m happy to help you out from time to time with your homework, but it’s not something I can do every day – I’m sorry.”

“Our relationship means a lot to me and I never want you to feel insecure, but I can’t have you going through my phone messages. If our relationship is going to last, we need to be open and honest with each other.” 

“I love spending time with you. But I need my friends, too. I hope you’re okay with the fact that I’m going to hang out with my friends a couple times a week.”

“It makes me feel uncomfortable when you gossip about other people. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t do it when I’m around.”

Be sure to talk with your teen about how their friendships may change once they begin to set boundaries. If someone can’t handle the new boundaries, it might be best for your teen to take a break from the relationship or walk away completely. 

5 Tips to Help Your Teen Set Healthy Boundaries

Given your own life experience, you’re in an excellent position to help your teen set boundaries with friends. Learning how to verbalize their thoughts and feelings in a calm, honest way can help your teen navigate even the most challenging relationship hurdles. 

Here are a few helpful tips to help your teen set boundaries:

#1 Help Them Learn to Identify What They’re Feeling

Most teens have a difficult time labeling their feelings. But before they can set boundaries with friends (or other relationships), they need to identify exactly how they’re feeling – frustration, exhaustion, disappointment, anger. When they do, they’ll be better equipped to move forward on setting limits. 

#2 Encourage Your Teen to listen to Their Feelings and Intuition

Encourage your teen to trust their inner thoughts and intuition. If they feel they’re being taken advantage of, used as a crutch, or being treated poorly in any way, they probably are. 

#3 Remind Them That They Can’t Be All Things to All Friends

Every friendship and relationship will look different. They might have boundaries in place with some friends, and not with others. The important thing to remember is that friendships are likely to thrive and grow if they feel good about them. 

#4 Talk About Different Ways to Set Boundaries (Role-Playing Works Great)

Mustering up the courage to say what’s on their mind may not come easy. If that’s the case, try role-playing with your teen to help them gain confidence. It works wonders! 

#5 Model Healthy Relationship Boundaries Yourself

Are you setting limits and healthy boundaries? You are your teen’s most important role model. They are quietly watching everything you do. So, make sure you’re setting a good example for them to follow. Teens can learn so much from observing relationships where there are healthy boundaries and observing positive, productive ways of resolving conflict.


About Marybeth Bock:

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


If you enjoyed, “How to Help Your Teen Set Boundaries with Friends,” you might also enjoy reading:

12 Things I Want My Teen Daughter to Know About Friendship

Friend or “Frenemy” – 10 Surefire Ways Your Daughter Can Spot the Difference

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