Student Lounge: Setting Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries can be tricky for adolescents – they’re still very much figuring out who they are and what they value, and are often easily influenced by their peers and the messages they receive from media. However, helping children and teens be thoughtful about what they’re comfortable with and developing boundaries that honor their feelings is essential for navigating healthy friendships and romantic relationships. Just as important, helping young people understand that everyone has different boundaries, that boundaries can change at any time, and that all boundaries must be respected (even if that means frustration or disappointment!) is an important part of sexual violence prevention. Despite the importance of being able to learn about and reflect on boundaries, most young people in the classes we teach tell us they have never before had the opportunity to do so.

Recently, we did an exercise with a group of middle school students in a gender and consent workshop to help them start thinking about where different kinds of behaviors fall in their comfort zones (examples above). These kinds of exercises can be a great way to have adolescents start thinking about the kinds of boundaries they want to set – and to learn that everyone has different boundaries -so that they feel confident about setting them and/or respecting them when the time comes.

We’ve linked to a blank comfort zones worksheet here.  If you’d like to try this with your child or a group of students, you can use the prompt below. After students complete their comfort zones, we shuffle the papers so that they can see how each person has different numbers. This exercise can increase critical skills, such as empathy and self-advocacy.

Knowing what our boundaries are is an important first step in having strong and meaningful relationships with the people in our lives. Learning about our boundaries helps us to communicate them to other people, and can help to limit some of the behaviors that make us uncomfortable. One way to learn what our boundaries are is to think about our comfort zones.


  1. This handout is a visual map for where our boundaries are. In the middle you see the comfort zone, then the Maybe section, followed by the No Way section.
  2. Also on the worksheet, you will see a few different behaviors for you to review.
  3. Based on how you feel about those behaviors you write the number associated with them in the appropriate section.
  4. This is an individual and anonymous activity designed for self-reflection. All answers should be kept confidential unless you choose to share them.

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