Lesson 7: Establishing Boundaries

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Name(s) of student(s):

Age and grade level:

Goal from IEP connected to lesson:

Objective from IEP connected to lesson:

Purpose of lesson: Identifying the benefits, difficulties, and process of establishing healthy boundaries.

Materials needed: Word document, internet access


“Have you ever helped someone or given so much of yourself (time, talents, etc.) to the point that you begin to feel uncomfortable or resentful? You may feel taken advantage of or frustrated. Today’s lesson addresses how to handle this situation and how to set up boundaries to avoid getting yourself into a similar predicament in the future.”

Discussion: Recognizing Lack of Boundaries

“If you neglect your needs in the process of giving to another, it’s time to establish some boundaries in the relationship. If you are unsure if you are neglecting yourself, consider if you recognize any of the following red flags, which signal a lack of boundaries:

  • You are giving more of yourself than you want to give.
  • You feel resentful or bitter towards the person.
  • You consistently feel under-appreciated for helping.
  • You are uncomfortable with how much you have invested (time, energy, resources) in a relationship.
  • You want to avoid the person.

“For example: Let’s say you are a social worker and have a client who calls you almost every evening. You talk to her and attempt to help her through a myriad of situations. You are feeling resentful because she is taking up hours a week from your family time. These feelings tell you that you need to establish boundaries with your client.”

Discussion: Establishing Boundaries

“Establishing boundaries is simply stating what you are willing to give and when you are willing to give it. Leave no room for guess work. Instead of resenting a friend or coworker for ‘using you’, state how and when you are willing to help. Using the previous example, make it clear that you are available between the hours of 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. Once you set this boundary clearly and respectfully, you don’t need to feel guilty for not answering the client’s phone calls outside of those hours.”
Explain the following categories of boundaries:

  • Material (e.g., lending or giving money or items)
  • Relational (e.g., when you are available and whom you are available for).
  • Physical (e.g., personal space, locking a door)
  • Sexual (e.g., stating your limits)

Exercise: Benefits of Healthy Boundaries

“It’s important to acknowledge that a lack of boundaries leads to resentment. Therefore, establishing healthy boundaries is beneficial to everyone in a relationship.”
Brainstorm the benefits of healthy boundaries. After brainstorming, have students explore additional benefits of boundary-setting by searching online resources.

Discussion: Difficulty of Establishing Boundaries

“Consider with me why establishing boundaries might be more difficult than it might seem. It takes courage to honestly and kindly state your limits when you feel guilty for standing up for yourself or when you fear hurting another’s feelings. Why might it be challenging for you to establish boundaries?”

Exercise: Practice Establishing Boundaries

“You may choose to establish a boundary by stating what you are willing to give or when you are available. If your boundaries are not respected, you can decide the best course of action (leave the relationship, remove yourself from a situation, etc.) and explain what will happen should the boundary be crossed again. You are only responsible for setting and upholding your boundaries. You can’t control or manipulate others to respect your boundaries. Be prepared to follow through.
“You may use “I” statements to assertively establish boundaries:

  • I feel _________ when you ______. Please _______.
  • I am willing to _________. Please do not ________.

“Can you think of any past or present relationships that would benefit from clear setting of boundaries? Create specific boundaries and write them down, changing the names of individuals involved to protect their privacy.”
Ask if there are any examples to share.


“Today we practiced forming boundaries in our relationships. We discussed using “I” statements to assertively communicate expectations. We also discussed the benefits and difficulties of establishing healthy boundaries.”

Progress notes, data collection, comments, and modifications: