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An emotional safety plan: Setting boundaries

All types of abuse can have an emotional and psychological impact. This can cause a heightened sense of fear for many women. It is important to seek out counselling and support services to deal with this.

Once you have left your partner, situations related to the children, court dates and times when you may need to have contact with him can be very stressful. You may find it helpful to plan for these situations. Your emotional safety plan should include measures to increase safety for you and/or your children as well as an after-care plan.

The following checklist offers strategies for supporting your emotional safety by establishing boundaries with your ex-partner. Please see the Self-care section for more tips.

Checklist: Setting Boundaries

In person contact

Try to get a order that is as specific as possible about all aspects of contact with the children: when it is permitted by telephone, how exchanges are to be handled, etc. The more specific the order, the less chance there is for your ex-partner to manipulate arrangements.

Be clear and direct with your ex-partner about behaviour that is unacceptable. Keep a written record of all communication so that if he continues you can take action by involving authorities.

Arrange exchanges of the children away from your home and in public places like the children’s school or daycare.

Resist the temptation to spend special occasions such as children’s birthdays and cultural/religious celebrations with their father. Even if the children appear to want this to happen, they can learn the advantages of being able to celebrate these events separately with each of you.

Let him receive information about the children’s health, education and general welfare directly from the children’s care providers.

Limit contact with former in-laws and family members who behave in an abusive or disrespectful manner. Anyone from your ex-partner’s family who wishes to spend time with the children can negotiate this with him.

For more tips, see our After court is over section.


Adjust social media settings to ensure privacy. Consider who is on your “friends” list or can access your social media postings to ensure that no one will pass on sensitive information. For more tips on managing technology abuse, see our tip sheet: Web and phone safety.

Have caller ID installed so you can screen calls and only answer calls from your ex-partner when the children are available to talk to him.

Monitor the children’s phone/email/text/social media contact with their father and end exchanges that become inappropriate (for example, if their father begins questioning the children about you, sharing inappropriate information about your case, etc.). Remember to document these instances.

Do not respond to every text, phone call or email immediately. Most responses can wait 24 hours if it is not an emergency. This will give you time to plan your response and help you to set boundaries with your ex-partner.

If telephone contact becomes challenging, limit contact to email or a co-parenting website. This creates a record of your exchanges.

Open a new email account just for communication with your ex-partner. For more tips on email, see our Tip sheet: Managing electronic communication with an abusive ex-partner.

For more tips, see

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