Discussing Boundaries

Health Department leads mental and physical health programming to Junior class


Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

Sexual assault, consent, physical boundries, and mental health have been a “taboo” topic in schools for years. Upper School Counselors Gary Childrey and Winnie Kearns of the Health Department decided to change that by speaking to the junior class during graderoom on January 4 and January 11. The boundaries discussed included physical, mental, and emotional. 

Ms. Kearns, a new Upper School counselor this year, voiced how important discussing boundaries are. “Understanding your boundaries and learning how to express them in relationships is a very complex skill requiring a lot of self awareness, communication, social savviness, and a lot of practice.”

Speaking to the junior class specifically, Kearns explained that “many of the stressors we see being experienced by students would benefit from having these kinds of conversations within these relationships.” 

Juniors Naomi Gross, Wells Gjerlow, and Francesca Adami voiced their concerns and praises as they listened to the boundaries programming. “I think it’s a very important conversation to be happening and the idea of it happening not just in your freshman year, but in junior year, is a great idea,” Adami said.

Some students wanted more time given the nature of the discussion. “Doing it rushed in graderoom, especially before finals made the significance less especially given the conversation of consent. I do think that there should be a place for it that’s not just graderoom,” Adami said.

Kearns agrees.“We always have the experience in graderoom where there’s not nearly enough time. We hope to improve this in the future so students can think about and practice some of the skills more thoughtfully,” Kearns said.

Gjerlow took a different side saying, “I thought it was extremely repetitive of things we already know.  The topic is important, but the way they approached it could’ve been better.”

Gross looks to the future. “I think we’re having good consent conversations, but I don’t think junior year is the time for it.  Freshman year the only consent video I saw was the “consent is a cup of tea” video.  I wish this programming was put in place freshman year and I hope that’s the case for future classes,” Gross said.

Kearns more than anything “hopes that students develop an awareness that their instincts in various situations are telling them something important.” Instinct is a topic that was discussed heavily within the boundary discussion. When at a social event and students sense something is “off” or “wrong,” Childrey and Kearns voiced that listening to an inner instinct can be the most beneficial.  

Kearns also said that “that feeling of discomfort can now be identified as an issue of boundaries and be more proactive and articulate about helping to establish healthy communication and boundaries.” Though following an instinct can be sometimes uncomfortable when sensing something is wrong, the Health Department advises to practice boundaries even more, so students can feel comfortable addressing a problem.

Kearns leaves students with the following advice: “Avoiding the problem will lead to no change. Recognize it, have a language for it, and practice it.”