It is natural to stress about visiting family over the holidays. Many people cannot unwind and have a relaxing holiday because they are afraid of upsetting someone. It is difficult to set boundaries with family members who may not understand why that boundary is in place, which can lead to hurt feelings and a tense holiday season.
What Are Healthy Boundaries?
Healthy boundaries are not written in stone, and they don’t even need to be said out loud. They are anything you need to help you find peace and keep hostile or unwanted situations from happening. For example, if you have differing political views from a relative, you may choose not to discuss certain topics with them in order to avoid conflict.
Why Are Boundaries Important?
Setting boundaries protects your sanity, your inner peace, and even your relationships. While setting boundaries can seem uncomfortable at first, it often leads to happier and healthier relationships all around, which leads to a better holiday experience for everyone.
What type of boundaries are typical around the holidays?
With all the festivities to attend and family members to visit, things can get hectic during this time of year. These are a few typical boundaries people set to give themselves and their loved ones a better holiday season:
So many people stress and feel guilty if they cannot make it to every holiday party. If your family had a divorce or a falling out, there could be two or three dinners you feel obligated to attend. If you get stressed over doing this, know that you don’t have to attend every single event. You can tell your family you are only attending one party this year.
Decide early if you want to travel for the holidays and how far. If you decide early, you can let everyone know early so they don’t plan for you to be at all of the parties and festivities. Communicating clearly and early will help your loved ones know you value and respect their time as well.
If there are topics that you do not want to talk about with your family, you can tell them. Suppose you have an aunt who always asks when you are going to have a baby or an uncle who wants to discuss the latest political issue. As a party guest, you can tell them you don’t want to talk about those things and change the subject.
Many people worry about giving gifts during the holidays. It is no secret that many of us are struggling with our finances. If you need to set a rule that you will only buy gifts for the children or you will have a spending limit, you should do that. You might hear some unhappy words, but tell them you wish you could afford to do more and that you hope they understand.
How To Set Boundaries
Before setting boundaries, you have to decide what they are. Talk with your immediate family about what you need to make the holidays more enjoyable. It could be spending more time at home. It might be refusing to host the party this year. But once you decide what your boundaries are, prepare to stick to them.
- Who do you want to spend the most time with?
- How much rest do you want to get this holiday season?
- How much time do you want to spend alone or with your immediate family?
- Are COVID restrictions still making you nervous to travel?
Enforcing Your Boundaries
Once you have decided what your boundaries are for this holiday season, you must back them up. If you give in because someone you care about does not like it, you will not accomplish your goal of easing stress. You must know when and how to speak up or say no.
1. Do Not Be Afraid To Speak Up
If you have put a particular situation on your list, you need to be prepared to address it. Suppose you have too many festivities to attend and you decide not to go to your great aunt’s dinner party. Stick with your decision as long as it still feels right, and be respectful when declining the invitation.
2. Be Calm But Direct
Here are a few examples of things to say to establish your boundaries, but with respect.
- “We don’t want to talk about that at dinner – why don’t we discuss it later?”
- “Those kinds of jokes are not appropriate when the children are around. Do you think we can go into the other room before you tell any more?”
- “We will not be attending the Christmas parade with the family this year, but we look forward to seeing you at dinner!”
3. Say “No”
If your family tries to push back, do not be afraid to say no. It may cause some sour feelings, but you should not have to explain yourself when setting a boundary. If your aunt refuses to leave you alone when she offers you a piece of pie, or someone tries to pour you a drink and you already established that you weren’t drinking, tell them no. After you have set the boundary, you owe them no further explanation.
You have a right to have a happy holiday season. If you spend all your time and energy trying to please everyone else, you are creating opportunities for stress and unhappiness. Taking stock of your mental health and setting boundaries to protect it will help you feel rested and rejuvenated once the holiday is over.