Do you have family boundaries? Especially when it comes to the holidays?
The Holidays are a time for family gatherings. But what if those get-togethers are not anticipated with joy? Do you dread them? Is your goal to just get through them without too much drama?
Family gatherings always bring family drama, to even the best families. But for some folks, it goes way beyond conflicts over who’s making the mashed potatoes or who’s going to clean up the kitchen after the meal. It goes way deeper and involves past hurts and disappointments.
If that’s you, here are a few thoughts for setting healthy boundaries for yourself and for your family, starting with WHAT you say yes to in the first place:
- To keep yourself from being overwhelmed, the first boundary to set is limiting what you say yes to. You do not have to go to every event you are invited to. Decide ahead of time what your limit is and then stick to it.
- Schedule rest or down time. Give yourself some margin. This allows you the option to add something in that you really wanted to do, but didn’t originally schedule.
- Set a budget for holiday spending.
- Delegate cooking and cleaning responsibilities to family members.
When it comes to all the emotions boil up at family gatherings, here are a few ideas:
- Resist people-pleasing. You may want to make everyone happy during the holidays and it’s normal to want to make it special, but if you are doing it because you feel the need to please everyone, remember that you probably won’t. People-pleasing leaves you feeling dejected if your hard work goes unnoticed or unappreciated.
- Know your triggers. If your uncle irritates you with his extreme views, then don’t get into a discussion with him. If your brother-in-law is selfish and narcissistic, then it’s okay to keep your distance from him. You can be polite without saying a lot.
- Give yourself a time-out. If you find your anger mounting at a family gathering, briefly step away and take some deep breaths.
- Set realistic expectations for the event. If your dad is always asking about how much money you make or complaining about your kids’ behavior, don’t expect that things will be different this time. Minimize your conversations with those people and focus more on the people you enjoy talking with.
- Avoid conflicting topics. Politics and religion are obvious, but your relatives may also bring up sensitive subjects, such as why someone isn’t married or isn’t making more money. Try to keep your conversations conflict-free by avoiding sensitive topics. Ask, “what’s new with you?” and let the conversation flow from there.
- Manage your responses. You can’t stop others from bringing up sensitive topics, so when that happens, you can respond with “Let’s not get into that right now,” and if that doesn’t work, excuse yourself politely from the conversation. If someone says something that is blatantly hateful, it’s okay to let them know that you don’t appreciate or agree with it and that you’d like to talk about something else.
- Put your energy into activities. Games and taking walks are good equalizers. They will help you focus more on having fun together rather than what you disagree on or what you dislike about someone.
Most families are pretty messy. We all have our conflicts because personalities, opinions and biases all differ. But when you focus on the good parts of your family and all the things that you have to be grateful for, those holiday gatherings can turn into memories you will cherish for years to come.
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