Boundaries with Family

Remember that boundaries are personal rules.

They help you to feel safe and comfortable in a relationship.

It is healthy to have boundaries with your family.

It is not okay for family members to do sexual things to each other. 

We will continue to talk more about boundaries in relationships throughout this module because it is important to think about boundaries with everyone you might meet or already know.

Here are some common boundaries:

Hugging and other touching

Some family members are very affectionate. This means they show love for each other through hugging, kissing, and other safe and healthy touch. Some family members don’t like to touch each other. This could be for many reasons. Touching of family members private parts like breasts, penis, or vagina is not appropriate. Your family member should not touch these body parts.


Visiting at Work

When you are at work, you are supposed to be working. You should not have many interruptions. If your family or friends want to see you at work, you should ask your boss first—ask if it is okay for your family to stop in for a few minutes to see you at work. If your boss says that it is not okay, tell people not to come. If your boss says it is okay, then arrange a short visit for your family or friends. If you think they are staying too long or interrupting the work, tell them you have to get back to work or that it is time for them to leave.


Borrowing or lending money

Your money is your money and you get to decide how to use it. Sometimes family members “pitch in” and pay part of the household expenses, like paying for the phone bill, rent, or groceries. You and your family should work out a plan if you are paying for any household expenses. If you ever think you are being asked to give more money than you want to give, or that you can afford, talk to someone you trust. Sometimes family members want to borrow money. It is up to you to decide if you should lend it. You should always make an agreement about the money you are lending, and make rules about when the person will pay you back. It is a good idea to talk to someone else you trust before lending anyone money.


Borrowing or lending things

Just like with money, your things belong to you. Other people’s things belong to them. You might feel comfortable borrowing or lending items with family members and friends. If someone wants to borrow from you, you can say yes or no to them. You do not have to lend to them, and many times you shouldn’t. You might not get your item back or it might not be in good shape after someone else uses it.



Secrets are conversations that are supposed to be kept private and not told to others. Sometimes people talk to someone they trust and don’t want everyone else to know about it. Sometimes secrets are happy things, like planning a surprise party, or getting a new job that you aren’t ready to tell everyone about. Sometimes secrets are sad or upsetting things. Most of the time, you should not tell someone’s secrets to other people. You should be trustworthy, which means that people can count on you to keep the secret private. Sometimes secrets are dangerous. If someone tells you a secret that is dangerous, you need to talk to someone you trust right away. If someone in your family is doing something that makes you feel bad but tells you to keep it a secret, you need to talk to someone you trust about this. Don’t keep this a secret! If you have a happy secret, you can tell it to someone you trust to keep it private. If you have a sad secret or a dangerous secret, you should tell someone you trust that is on your team, like your service coordinator or doctor.


Reading other people’s mail or e-mail

The things people get in the mail, like letters, bills, and documents, are their private property. You should not open or read someone’s mail unless they ask you for help or assistance. If you get mail addressed to you, it is your property. If you need help reading your mail or deciding what to do with it, you can ask someone you trust to help you. Email is also private. The email messages that someone gets are just for them. You should not read someone’s email unless they share it with you. You should not share someone’s email unless they say it is okay. Your email is private too. No one should be reading your email unless you ask them to or you show it to them. No one should share your email without your permission.


Personal Space

Personal Space is the amount of space you like to have between yourself and another person. Different people have different needs for personal space. People who are in a family often like to be closer together. Sometimes they will sit close together, hug, or talk with their faces close together. Sometimes family members like to have more personal space just because that makes them more comfortable. Sometimes family members don’t get along, so they don’t want to be too close to each other. You can tell someone that you want more personal space. Or you can move or back away from them politely. If someone wants more personal space from you, do not be upset about this. It is just their preference. You can move back a step or two.


Talking about personal problems

Everyone has personal things that are going on in their life. It can be helpful to talk about your personal life with someone you trust. It can also be exciting to share your personal life with other people when something good is happening. Different kinds of relationships have different boundaries for talking about your personal life or problems. Families often share the details of their personal lives with each other. Healthy families take care of each other when someone is sick, or help each other out during hard times. Some family members know important details about other family members, like Social Security numbers, health care information, or bank account numbers.


Accepting or giving a ride

You should only take a ride from someone you know and are supposed to be with, like a family member, a friend, or staff.