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Boundaries and Consent

Valuing Yourself to Have Boundaries

Boundaries are so important to wellness.

Boundaries are limits we set for ourselves in our relationships. Healthy boundaries allow us to say “No” to others and be ourselves. How can you teach your kids/youth about boundaries? There are a couple of things you can do to promote healthy boundaries.

  • Model healthy boundaries. This will help your child/youth know what boundaries look like and that it is okay to have them. Boundaries can be challenging and if it is something you struggle with, seek help with a counsellor or other mental health professional.
  • Talk about boundaries. Let children and youth know it is okay to say no to something which makes them uncomfortable.
  • Look for resources. In your community, there may be resources to help develop boundaries.
    • In Red Deer, the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre and The Outreach Centre have programs for youth with discuss boundaries
  • Practice clear expectations within your classroom

Remember, it is okay to say no! Boundaries protect us. They protect our time, energy, possessions, and relationships (to self and others).

If someone does not respond well to you setting boundaries, that is to do with them not you. You are allowed to have boundaries. Do not allow others to sway your boundaries because they want something from you or do not like the limits you have set. A healthy relationship is one in which your boundaries are respected and valued. Unhealthy relationships do not.

Types of Boundaries

Boundaries are to help keep a person safe. They create clear expectations which help to create healthy relationships. Your boundaries are for you to decide. We do not decide other people’s boundaries. For example, you cannot decide with another person is comfortable with.

There are 7 types of boundaries.

boundaries that protect your feelings and thoughts. It is protecting your right to your feelings, not being ridiculed about your emotions, and not being responsible for other people’s emotions. Your feelings are your own. Emotional boundaries create a safe place to have your emotions. It is about knowing when to take time for yourself and what you are comfortable sharing.

boundaries that protect your thoughts and ideas. It is how you communicate and discuss things with others.

boundaries that protect your possessions and money. It is being paid by your job as agreed upon. Material boundaries also help you decide if you want to lend your things/money to someone or not.

boundaries that protect your body and space. You have a right not to be touched and to have privacy. It is also about valuing your body by eating well and resting. It is also the boundary around your body and how close you like people to you. This can change depending on who you are around.

boundaries which protect your right to consent and what kind of sexual activity you like/where/when/with whom. It is being able to express what you want.

boundaries that protect your right to believe in what you want and practice your spiritual/religious beliefs.

boundaries that protect how you spend your time. It is how you prioritize your time and know your time is worth something. Time boundaries allow you to say no to do things you do not want to do.

Setting Boundaries

Communicating your boundaries can be as simple as saying no. This is a skill which needs to be practiced. Learning to set boundaries can be challenging. Help the youth in your life by modelling healthy boundaries and having open conversations about boundaries and how to set them.

Sometimes, saying no can be challenging, so what are some different ways you can set boundaries?

Your boundaries are what are right for you not others.  Some of our boundaries might be rigid  and others might be flexible. It can depend on the situation and the type of boundary. The important thing is to listen to yourself and what makes you comfortable.

Boundaries are important in all types of relationships from partners to coworkers to the youth in your life.

First thing to do is self-reflection. What are you comfortable with? What is important to you?

Start small. Setting boundaries can be really challenging especially with people you have known for a while. Start with small things. This can help you build them up over time.

Set them early.   When you begin a new relationship, it is important you set boundaries. This will help the person know how you want to be treated and how you are going to treat them. If you have been in the relationship for a while, it is okay to set boundaries. Just because that is the way things have been, that doesn’t mean that is how they always have to be.

Be consistent. When you keep your boundaries
consistent, it helps to reinforce them. It helps so there is no confusion.

Communicate. Talking with the person is so important. This might
not be easy but it helps everyone know what the expectations are.

How Can You Say No?

  • No, thank you.
  • I am not interested in that.
  • I am okay with…but I am not okay with…
  • I am not ready for…
  • I need some quiet time to recharge.
  • I am not feeling up to it today.
  • I am not comfortable with that.
  • I do not have time for…right now.
  • I have too much on my plate for…
  • I am fine with…
  • I am not into that kind of thing.
  • Not today. Thank you.
 

Setting boundaries can be challenging. Be patient with yourself. If you need help learning how to set boundaries, that is okay! Find someone you feel comfortable talking to whether it is a counsellor, elder, or spiritual leader. Find what is a right fit for you.

 Sometimes, people will cross your boundaries because
they do not know your boundaries. If they continue to cross your boundaries
when you have communicated them, that is a sign of disrespect. 

Consent

Consent is a voluntary agreement between people that they want to do something together. Make sure everyone says yes because they want to and not because they feel pressured to say yes.

Consent is:

  • Active, not passive. Only YES means YES!
  • Knowing and respecting a person’s own boundaries, as well as the boundaries of others
  • Ongoing conversation, not a one-time deal.

 

Consent Laws in Canada

Legal age of consent to sexual activity with anyone older than you is 16 in Canada.

Under 12

Cannot consent to sexual activity.

Ages 12-13

The law allows for consent to sexual activity with someone less than 2 years older than them.

Ages 14-15

The law allows for consent to sexual activity with someone less than 5 years older unless the person is in a position of power, authority, or influence over the other (then they cannot give consent).

Ages 16+

The law allows for consent to sexual activity with an adult regardless of age, unless the adult is in a position of power, authority, or influence over the youth (then consent cannot be given).

Consent cannot be given (and it does not count if given)
  • On someone’s behalf (given by someone else)
  • If the other person is in a position of power, trust, or authority (coach, teacher, counsellor, boss, family member)
  • If someone is threatened, manipulated or forced
  • If someone expresses in words or actions NO (a lack of agreement)
    • Actions can include turning away, putting hands/arms up to block the person, stepping back, shaking head no, etc.
  • If someone is incapable of giving consent (unconscious, sleeping, under the influence of drugs or alcohol)
    • If a person is unconscious, asleep, drunk, high or otherwise intoxicated, they cannot give consent. The person must be alert, of stable mind, conscious, and sober to give consent to sexual activity.

Further Resources

If you would like to speak to someone about mental health issues, the Alberta Health Services Mental Health Help Line is available 24/7, offering information and referrals on any aspect of mental health.

Call toll-free: 1-877-303-2642

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