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Setting Boundaries As A New Parent: 5 Key Items To Know

Updated: Apr 16

You are about to have a baby—yay!! You are so excited and maybe you are starting a registry or thinking ahead about those first few months of life.

Did you know one of the hardest parts about raising a baby or child is how to set boundaries with others? Particularly relatives, such as in-laws. Trouble setting boundaries and people-pleasing have actually brought women into therapy seeking answers. Fear not, we have a few ideas and strategies to ease those relationships from the beginning before things get out of hand and resentment grows with relatives.

1: Write A List Of Boundaries As A New Parent

This is a great place to consult your partner, your doctors, and your friends. Think about what is truly important to you and what your family needs. This is a place for partners to work together before the baby to ensure they are on the same page and presenting a united front to family and friends on your boundaries.

Sample Boundaries That Many Parents Have For New Babies:

  • No Visitors At Hospital When Delivering

  • No Visitors Overnight

  • Having A List Of Tasks For Visitors To Help With (Cooking, Laundry, Walking The Dog)

  • No Kissing The Baby

  • Wash Hands Before Holding The Baby

  • No Drop-In Visitors

  • No Photos On Social Media

  • Make Sure Visitors Are Up To Date on Vaccines

Once you have this list, reach out to your mom friends. They can be helpful during the process of setting boundaries as they’ve had to do it before themselves.

2: Talk To Mom Friends Before Setting Boundaries With Relatives

Before you begin to tell relatives your boundaries, talk to your more experienced mom friends. As new parents, it can seem we need every boundary in the book, but more experienced parents will tell you what you really need. They’ll tell you what boundaries they started with and where they learned to relax their boundaries as time went on. They can also tell you what boundaries they wish they had set for themselves before it got too late.

It can be incredibly helpful to learn from the experiences of those before you, and bonus, it helps you continue to develop and bond with your mom tribe who you will surely need after the baby is born.

If you don’t currently have a mom tribe, now is the time to make one. Jot down a few friends you can invite for coffee or dinner and begin to get to know them more. There’s also an app called Peanut to meet moms who are around the same due date as you are and can bond with you over crazy pregnancy symptoms. If you are working to make friends, click here or here.

3: Map Out The Best Way To Tell Relatives Your Boundaries

What is the best way your relatives will take the news? Over text or will that be too overwhelming? In person or does that not give them enough time to take it in mindfully? Whatever it may be, consider how you get this information across positively yet productively. When setting boundaries one must be firm but kind. Be careful not to overwhelm them, some of these conversations may be best piece by piece.

Make sure these boundaries are coming across with love and how you want that person to still be involved. It can be helpful here to describe what you want from that person and how you may need them. Sample ways to include could be including the older generation in milestones and planning how to do them together, such as the baby's first holiday or first birthday.

Or buying things for the relatives house if the child will visit often, such as making sure the grandparents have an extra pack and play or certain toys for their house.

For the older generation, they may not be used to certain boundaries like not kissing the baby or needing to be up-to-date on vaccines before visiting the baby. This is a great time to update them on why these boundaries are important to you and your family and perhaps provide research.

4: Have A Code Word And Boundary Lines For Relatives

It can be helpful to go ahead and broach with your partner a code word you can use when family members may be breaking your boundaries with your child or it is time to leave. This could be simple such as “do we have cheese?” It can also be helpful to come up with a few simple but kind but firm boundary lines to say when it happens.

Sample Boundary Lines To Use With Visitors Of A New Baby:

  • “We appreciate that you want to see our baby today, however, today is not the best day for us. Perhaps _____ day is best, or a shorter visit today.”

  • We are working to keep our baby healthy. Please keep your face a little more away, they are so tiny and don’t have our immune system yet. Thanks for respecting our decision.

  • We know their face is little and cute and you want to kiss it. Their immune system is also little so please remember to keep your face away.

  • I know things were done differently back in your day and everyone turned out okay. This is how we want to handle our child though, and we know you’ll respect our decisions as parents.

  • We appreciate your take on our parenting and your years of experience, but we are learning what works for us. If we do want advice, we’ll be sure to ask for it.

  • We appreciate the presents. We are currently trying to keep the baby's life minimal to keep us from being overwhelmed with things. Please check with us before you bring something, that way you don’t waste money on something we may not use.

5: Be Flexible In Boundaries As Needed

At the end of the day, this is now your family and your child, but remember, it still takes a village. There might be times you have to backpedal on what you thought you would uphold or need more support than planned. There may be times you need to strengthen boundaries, reexpress them to family or friends, or find a better way to uphold them. This is a great place to remember your mom friends and consult them if you need to change boundaries, strengthen boundaries, or to decide how this journey will continue for you. If you are worried about becoming your mom, click here.

There are many ways to get across your boundaries and have them respected, it can be helpful to run these by friends to make sure you are getting your point across firmly but kindly. Therapy can be helpful to continue to navigate this ongoing journey of parenthood.

If you are looking to for help setting boundaries as a new parent, adjusting to parenthood, adjusting an older child to a new baby, or finding a mom group, Mary Willoughby (Romm) Prentiss is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.

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