Setting and maintaining professional boundaries with the parents you work with is hard any time of the year but can be especially hard during the holidays. They often want schedule changes, ask for exceptions to payment policies, or push the limits in some other way. You want to help, you want to accommodate, however, you also want to make sure you’re not giving in so much you’re shortchanging yourself or setting up unrealistic expectations for future requests. How do you do that?
Make Sure You Have Written Policies
Even when you have friendly, informal relationships with your parent clients, make sure you have detailed policies around what you provide to clients, what you require from clients, and how exceptions work. By having everything in writing, you ensure everyone has the same understanding and expectations. Having written policies also keeps you from having the same conversation over and over again. When there are questions or conflicts, you can easily refer to your written and agreed-upon policies.
Put Parameters Around Your Exceptions
We often think that boundaries have to be all or nothing. Black and white with no middle grey allowed. That might be good in theory, however, it’s not how life works for most. Caregivers like to help, it’s part of who we are and it feels good to help others when we can. The good news is you can pitch in or go the extra mile and have professional, healthy boundaries. The helping out isn’t what gets us into trouble. The doing it without boundaries in place to protect our time, energy, and finances is. When you make an exception to your policies, make sure you’re clear around how far that exception goes. For example, when a parent asks for a late night to go holiday shopping, say yes if you want to and make sure to let them know it’s a one evening only offer. When a parent asks to skip payment for the extra week they’re on vacation, say yes to taking one day’s payment off the week’s invoice if you really want to help.
You should never feel you’re obligated to help out when a client asks a favor nor should you feel you can’t help out because you’ll be taken advantage of. Creating healthy boundaries means creating a space where you can help others without harming yourself.