The holidays can be seen as a very exciting time filled with joy and happiness. There’s a certain lightness in the air that can only be felt during the month of December. The idea of getting together with family, friends, and loved ones comes as an exciting thought. You can’t wait to spend all day and night with your family.
That is not always the case. The holidays can actually be a time that can be very stressful and make people feel incredibly uneasy. All families are different, all dynamics are different, and even though the holiday time is widely assumed to be a very joyous time, for some it is not. Learning to balance relationships during the holidays and setting boundaries for expectations is key to having a great Holiday Gathering. Whether the idea of getting together with family seems daunting or if you are anxious anticipating certain conversations, the idea of setting boundaries with your family and friends can help keep this holiday time as magical as it appears in Christmas movies!
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
If you are at dinner and a conversation arises – let’s say politics – that you do not want to be a part of or you know historically what happens during these conversations (whether it involves you or two other people at the table), just know that it is 100% acceptable to say “let’s not talk about this right now.” Instead of letting things get carried away and not speaking up, taking a stand as a friendly reminder that we want this day to be pleasant and enjoyable for everyone is a way to keep people in their respective places.
For conversations that you would rather not hear about, it is totally acceptable to reach out to the host to let them know you are not comfortable talking about certain topics. For example, you recently went through a breakup and know one of you Aunts will be on your case about not being in a relationship or married at this point. Telling the host means that someone is on your side. If they hear this conversation being brought up, they can simply chime in on your behalf and say “I don’t think this is an appropriate conversation to be having.”
Set a Time Limit for the Visit
The idea of spending 4 or 5 hours with a group of people that cause you anxiety is never an easy thought. Leading up to the event, you can set a boundary by saying you are only able to attend for 2 hours and will be visiting during a specific time period. That way you are not missing out but you are giving yourself a time limit and a clear out to exit the situation if needed.
Setting a time limit as a boundary is a great way to control your controllables in a situation. Having the peace of mind knowing that you are only entering an unwanted situation for a short period of time can actually end up being a factor in maybe enjoying yourself a bit more at the holiday event.
Excuse Yourself if Needed
If something is happening that is making you uncomfortable, a conversation, a family members drinking, activities that people may be doing, whatever it is it is ok to excuse yourself. During holiday gatherings with families, unexpected things can happen. Maybe someone you weren’t expecting to take part shows up or a conversations escalates even after trying to silence it. You can remove yourself from the situation.
Whether it is going to a separate room, engaging with others, or even going to the bathroom to isolate for a bit, leaving an uncomfortable situation is a way to create a boundary during the holidays. Once you remove yourself from whatever the situation was that was not sitting right, you can then move forward with a plan of action. Do I want to stay? Am I able to avoid this person and the conversation? Is there a good time where I can quietly leave? How can I address this with the host? Figuring out what you want to do is easier when you are not directly in the hectic situation, sometimes staying in an unwanted place can lead to impulse decisions with not much thought behind them.
Removing yourself can help you see a clear picture of what is going on but it also can set a precedent that the situation is no okay to others involved. Setting a boundary by leaving a situation not only helps you but can create a boundary that was not previously discussed.
Hold Your Ground & Prepare for Pushback from Family
It can be difficult setting boundaries with family because some family members feel that everything should be fair game. We’re all family right?! You might receive pushback for boundaries that are set in regards to conversation topics and even guests who are invited. It’s important to prepare for pushback but to also hold you ground to make it clear that you will be leaving or maybe even not attending if certain things take place during the holiday gathering. Part of setting boundaries is being firm with your wants and needs so others know that they should be respectful.
Prepare What You Will Say if You Need to Set a Boundary in the Moment
We can try to be proactive, but not all boundaries can be set before a holiday gathering. Be prepared with what you might say if something happens that you don’t want to take part in. Or if a conversation with you as the topic pops up. Or if a conversation happens that is bound to end in a fight erupts. Having a game plan for in the moment situations can help set boundaries with family on the fly.
At the end of the day the goal is to enjoy the holidays the best way possible. This can be with friend, family, both, neither, coworkers, or even alone! Setting boundaries is a way to keep your peace during a likely stressful time of year and events. I hope everyone has an amazing holiday season!
Alright, I get it. Not everyone gets their holiday shopping done in August… Trust me, I know. I used to be the person who went out on December 23rd to buy gifts that were to be opened on Christmas Eve. Note : I am a recovered procrastinator, I’ve managed to finish all my Christmas shopping…