There is an old saying: “Good fences make good neighbors.” Having healthy boundaries in relationships is important for everyone, especially for people caring for someone who has autism. Setting and defending boundaries allows you to protect your physical and mental health and focus on feeling your best while being a caregiver for someone on the spectrum.
Setting boundaries can be hard. Your friends and family may not be used to you saying no or establishing limits for when and how you and the person you care for are available to them. They may expect you to have the same energy you had before you became a caregiver. No matter what, you are entitled to establish the boundaries you need to maintain your emotional and physical wellbeing. Setting boundaries to take care of yourself does not make you mean or selfish – it helps you focus on what you need to do to care for yourself and your child.
Here are a few tips for setting boundaries clearly and compassionately:
After setting boundaries, do not be surprised if you need to defend them. Some people will likely test your boundaries, especially when they are new. Expect some pushback and consider what a good response might be.
Here are some examples of boundary testing and possible responses:
After testing your boundaries a few times, most people will understand that they are well-defended and learn to respect them. If you have allies who understand the challenges of being a caregiver for someone who has autism, ask them to help you defend your limits with others. Remember, you don’t need to apologize for setting good boundaries around what is best for you and your child.
Here are some conversations from MyAutismTeam about setting and defending boundaries:
"As soon as we were in the car and driving, the weight LIFTED and I felt a big smile on my face! And I blurted out: Wow, well done! You just took care of yourself and did what YOU knew you needed to do!"
"It is really good to see him create and set his own boundaries. And as a mom, it is adorable and amusing to see how serious he is about wanting his own space."
"My husband feels beyond disrespected and now doesn't even want to be in the same room or breathe the same air as my brother."
Have you successfully set boundaries that help you manage caregiving?
What tips would you recommend to help set healthy limits with others?
Share in the comments below or directly on MyAutismTeam.