Helping your teen set boundaries

By Staci Salazar

I was a sophomore in high school. 15 years old. Looking back, I should have never been allowed to even date a 17-year-old. But, well…hindsight. December 13, 1989. It was the Wednesday before we were going to be out of school for Christmas break.

I still remember the clothes I was wearing. Stone-washed jeans with a tuck-roll around the ankles. A plain white t-shirt with a large, comfy blue sweatshirt over it. Brown loafers. My typical attire even to this day.

He called and asked if I would accompany him to the mall to help him pick out a Christmas present for his mom. After I was given permission to go, he and his best friend showed up at my house to pick me up, but he told me he had forgotten something at home.

Once at his apartment, he said he wanted to show me something in his room. His friend sat in the living room watching CHiPs. It was my first and only time at the apartment he shared with his mom and stepdad.

I lost my virginity that day. Not because I wanted to; but because it was stolen from me. It happened quickly and I tried everything to stop it. His friend paid no attention. Right after he finished, the phone rang. It was his stepdad. He talked calmly on the phone with him while I dressed.

He took me home and I called my two best friends. I told no one else. That is, until my daughters started asking to date. Then, after talking it over with my partner, I shared my story with them. And, now, today, for the first time, I’m sharing it publicly with you.

My mom passed away never hearing my story. I’ve never even shared it with my sister. My dad was only given a slight inclination that it happened just this past week on Facebook, when he asked why victims wait so long to speak up.

Because, Dad, it’s shameful to admit. It’s hard to admit any abuse, let alone sexual abuse from someone you thought you knew and adored. People don’t want to believe the truth when they think, “but he’s such a sweet boy.”

I didn’t want to believe it either. Stress and anxiety overpowered me. I was 15, and it took 65 days before my period returned. Why? Again—stress.

The abuse I experienced changed the trajectory of my thinking towards the male community as a whole. It took every bit of trust I knew away from me. It changed my life.

But no one ever knew why. For years, no one but Colby and I knew.

I had to learn what love was. To understand that not everyone was going to hurt me. And to vow to always do everything I could to empower my girls, my children, to stay safe. To have boundaries.

Here are some things to think about when helping your teen set boundaries in their relationships:

The L word

Saying “I love you” can happen for different people at different times in a relationship. You should never feel pressured or forced to say it before you’re ready.

Time apart

As great as it is to want to spend a lot of time with your partner, remember that it’s important to have some time away from each other, too. In a healthy relationship, partners have some friends and activities they enjoy separately.

Take your time

Don’t rush it if you’re not ready. In a healthy relationship, both partners know how far each other wants to go and they communicate with each other if something changes.

Sex isn’t currency

You don’t owe your partner anything. Just because your partner takes you out to dinner, buys you a gift or says “I love you,” doesn’t mean you owe them anything in response. It isn’t fair for your partner to claim that you don’t care about them because you won’t “go all the way.” Even if you’ve done it before, you are never required to do it just because your partner is pressuring you. Remember, only “yes” means yes, and “no” always means no.

No means no. I make sure my children are aware of this, and that it holds true for any circumstance. I tell them that I use peer pressure as a good reason for spite. Basically, anytime I’m pressured to do something (sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.), I don’t do it, simply out of spite. My partner calls me the Queen of Spite, and I’m okay with that. It has kept me on the straight and narrow through my teen and adult life.

Boundaries are about respect. Love is respect. Not only is it about respecting others, but yourself as well.

First, consider your own boundaries and then communicate them with your partner. Colby and I learned early on in our marriage how critical good communication is in a relationship.

As your relationship progresses, it’s important that your lines of communication stay open. “What’s important is that you’re communicating any boundary changes to your partner and you’re making changes because YOU want to, not because you’re being pressured, forced or manipulated into making them.”

Questions about setting boundaries?

love is respect is the ultimate resource to empower youth to prevent and end dating abuse. Highly-trained advocates offer support, information and advocacy to young people who have questions or concerns about their dating relationships. Free and confidential phone, live chat and texting services are available 24/7/365.

Staci Salazar is a parenting and lifestyle blogger from Dallas, TX. You can follow Staci at