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Boundaries...and cheeseburger socks!

Summer 2023

Written by Melissa Cruz, prevention educator


One of the most memorable teaching times for me this last school year was a day spent teaching boundaries to over 200 high school students!

Our teaching time was divided into 13 mini-sessions. We were given a timeframe of 10-12 minutes for each class. I remember when my co-worker and I completed the 10th class it was like, “Ok, 3 more to go!” I wanted to be “on” for each group and give them 100 percent. Yet, that’s like turning on your light on …13 times!

My boss gave us the idea of using hula hoops – like rings – in the activity. We paired up the students with one standing inside the ring. The students were told that the ring symbolized a boundary that they were to protect.


As the students were pairing up and deciding who would go first to protect – we asked them to define boundaries. Most students knew how to describe a boundary as a limit or as your personal area or bubble – like a line that cannot be crossed.

We gave the person standing on the outside of the ring permission to be “annoying”, but they couldn’t physically pick anyone up or push or scream at them.

The first persuasive comment of the day was, “That hula hoop is big enough for both of us!”

What was interesting to watch in each group was how the teens handled someone purposefully trying to wear down their boundary. One girl bent over inside her ring, and she ended up holding her hands over her ears as she spent a few minutes avoiding her friends’ pleas.

A creative comment was, “I’m cold, let me in!"


The tactics to wear down boundaries included untying shoes, tickling the person to come outside of the boundary area, in-the-face-stares, pokes, but mostly bribing!

One student said, “I was almost worn down with candy!” Others promised money!

And one girl promised to fix her friend’s vehicle. I asked, “Do you know how?” And she answered, “No!”

The guys led the day in being the ones who most frequently allowed their boundaries to be compromised. Reasons given for the breakdown of a boundary included, “I just wanted to” and again, bribes!

One teen’s defensive approach was to remove his shoes for extra traction – revealing his cheeseburger socks!



The point of the activity was to have the students think about their boundaries.

We only spent 2 minutes each with someone inside the ring protecting it and the other trying to persuade. Then they switched places inside the ring. This activity was just fun! I found it interesting to observe what our teens are thinking.

We ended each session with the boundary-setting formula of:

“I feel [ name the emotion] ... when [name the action]. I need [state the boundary]"


My favorite response was, “I feel stressed when unexpected things happen. I need time to process.”


Other responses included: “I feel blissful when I eat Oreos. I need milk and Oreos!”

“I feel grossed out when someone touches my pencils. I need you to stop touching my pencils!”

“I feel safe when I’m alone. I need you to go away!”

“I feel frustrated when I’m ignored. I need attention.”


I ended up loving this time teaching – and turning my light on 13 times!

I feel fulfilled when I am teaching. I need cheeseburger socks!

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