setting boundaries with family

For many, holidays are about spending time with family and friends. While that can be joyous, it can also be an emotional landmine- navigating old family patterns with the added pressure of feeling jolly (what could go wrong?!). When I asked parents about their biggest holiday stress, the number 1 answer related to boundaries. Everyone wants to know how to set boundaries over the holidays.

Tell me if any of the responses resonate with you:
“Dealing with my family members who don’t respect how we parent our child”
“I want to go to my in-laws but I don’t want to have to stay there”
“These gatherings throw off my kid’s schedule then he’s miserable for days”
“My family expects us all to exchange gifts but it’s always so expensive”
“I’m trying to stop making the holidays all about gifts for my kids but people don’t understand that”.
The challenges with holiday gatherings are even more complicated by the COVID-19 risks making the need for boundaries that much stronger. 

Here’s what I’ve realized: 

When I refuse to set a boundary, I am prioritizing other people’s comfort over our own needs.

Holiday Boundary Challenge: 

1. Commit to checking in with yourself emotionally throughout the holidays to notice your stress level and recalibrate as needed 

2. Set boundaries for yourself and your family regarding the commitments you are willing and not willing to make. 

3. Honor your family’s needs through the holidays prioritizing them over people-pleasing. 

It may be hard to shake that desire to please others (I still work on it myself!) but here’s the thing:

we can hold our boundaries or we hold everyone else’s expectations and feelings but we cannot do both at once.

Boundaries are an assertion of our thoughts, feelings and needs. When you set a boundary, you are modeling to your children the ability to assert yourself, which is an impactful holiday gift.  

By setting boundaries, you are allowing yourself to not become derailed from the emotional guideposts you set with the first challenge. 

Be prepared that people may have their own feelings in response to your boundaries but you are not in control of their reactions. One of the most fundamental elements to setting boundaries at any time, not just the holidays, is being able to tolerate the uncomfortable emotions that may rise up in you in response to other people’s reactions. Manage this and you’ve got the key to setting healthy boundaries. 

Let me know how it goes! I want to hear all about your holiday boundaries.