We must make our boundaries clear if we want others to respect them.
There is little room for vagueness with boundaries. If we are vague and unclear with our boundaries in relationships, then people are left guessing and are unable to honour or respect them. Boundary creation can be hard for many people, especially if we didn’t learn about boundaries as children, or if we haven’t felt like our boundaries have been respected by people in our life so far.
There is a strong correlation between our boundaries and our well-being. Many of us have missed out on learning how to identify and express our boundaries, and that can cause us much suffering. Engaging in constructive co-creation of boundaries with the people you support is a great learning opportunity for everyone involved.
Sometimes our boundaries change. We can find ourselves in a situation that brings awareness of new boundaries we need to create. We might also find that some boundaries that were necessary for a season are no longer needed. Shifting and changing is part of being human. This means that our boundaries are very likely to change as well.
In peer support we often need to have a few very clear boundaries, and we must be comfortable talking about them with others. Though it often feels awkward and uncomfortable, it’s essential. Getting used to both preventing and addressing boundary issues will serve us well in the long run.
When people step outside the boundaries we have created, there is a disconnect that happens in our connection. When boundaries are crossed it is important to have open and respectful conversations.
Some peer support workers who have ongoing relationships choose to give the people they work with a document at the beginning of a one-on-one relationship that outlines the parameters of their role and what they can and cannot do. The document can also outline things like their preferred forms of communication, availability of time, and any other important boundary items. If you choose to do this, it is essential that it is written in language and a tone that upholds the core values. It is also essential that there is room for the person you are working with to participate in the dialogue and be able add what they need to the conversation.
*If your program is more of a drop-in program by nature, and you don’t have ongoing connections with people, then this kind of form is not needed.
It is also necessary to have open dialogue about boundaries with the people on your team who you volunteer or work with. Talking to your program supervisor about boundaries can be helpful to clarify difficult situations and to ensure that all peer support workers are setting boundaries that are consistent across the program.