The holidays are inevitably a time of year in which you’ll spend more time with friends and family. While that can be fun and celebratory, it’s often also stressful and triggering. If you know that you struggle to be around family during the holidays, and that time with parents, siblings, and other relatives makes you more emotional, here are some things to consider addressing in order to create healthy boundaries and more satisfying connections.
When you are proactive and communicate about what you want and need before family gatherings, you can sometimes prevent conflicts and misunderstandings before they happen. Setting expectations and limits might look like sharing what time you plan to arrive and/or leave a gathering with family. It could also include sharing your desires around the presence of certain foods and/or alcohol. For instance, if you are trying to reduce your sugar intake at the holidays but your mother is a “food pusher” it might help set expectations with her about this goal related to your diet, and share with her that you’ll be having fruit as dessert this year rather than the array of cakes and cookies that she typically serves. The same goes for alcohol. If you have particular desires around how alcohol is consumed at the gathering, share those up front to prevent any situations that could be avoidable. The same goes for communicating about the time you plan to spend at a gathering. The holidays are hectic and setting the expectation that you’ll be leaving the dinner gathering by 9pm so that you can get a good night’s sleep, can be a proactive way to diffuse any potential disappointment.
Sharing If/Then Plans
In addition to setting expectations, it’s helpful to establish boundaries around what you’ll tolerate and how you’ll need to respond to certain situations with family. Although it’s a difficult conversation to have, sharing your planned responses to certain situations can help set the stage for what your relatives should expect. This can be done prior to the gathering or in the moment if things are getting off track. Two examples include:
“If you keep talking to my partner like that, we’ll need to leave”
“I’d appreciate it if we don’t talk about politics at the dinner table.''
Oftentimes, your attempts to set expectations, use it/then statements, and create healthy boundaries are dismissed or met with resistance. In these cases, you may have to use statements to reinforce boundaries. Sara Kubric from Millennial Therapist recently shared these helpful boundary statements on instagram that you can modify with your own voice for reinforcing boundaries.
- “I appreciate your concern, but this is my decision”
- “I respect your values and beliefs, but I do not share them”
- “I will no longer be the middle person in family arguments”
- “Commenting on my weight is not appropriate, you need to stop”
- “And rude comments about my lifestyle will result in this conversation ending”
- “I understand you are frustrated, but I don’t want to participate in family gossip”
- “I expect my partner to be treated with respect or we won’t come over anymore”
- “Please stop asking when we will have a kid, it’s putting a lot of pressure on my relationship”
At Center for Shared Insight, we help you set healthy boundaries not only at the holidays, but throughout the year, resulting in more fulfilling relationships. As relationship therapists in Denver Colorado, we support clients’ journeys in identifying friction in any of their relationships and addressing it with productive strategies. If you would like to learn more about our services, please contact us for a free intake call.