The Holiday season can be very special. It’s a time for togetherness, gratitude, and quality time with your family and loved ones. But the pressure and expectations from the holidays – along with all that togetherness – can bring out some of the worst parts of the family experience. It can reopen old wounds or reignite trauma.
So to enjoy the holidays with your family, it is crucial that you maintain healthy boundaries. If your holiday experience could use a little emotional cushioning, here are some tips to establish healthy family boundaries.
Define Boundaries Ahead of Time
This is the most important part of setting boundaries: identify them before you need to, not during or afterwards. If you suspect a visiting family member might overstay their welcome, decide exactly when you will ask them to leave and how to do it. If a family member may make a rude comment or say something mean, be ready to draw your rhetorical shield to protect yourself.
If you’re married, enlist your spouse in this process. Knowing that you have an ally who knows what to do will give you great confidence.
Learn to Say “No”
If your family has trouble with direct communication, saying “no” can feel like a foreign concept. This is especially true for codependent relationships, such as those of alcoholics and their children. Not every request from a family member has to be granted. Nor do those requests have to be denied bluntly. Decide for yourself if it is something you are willing to do and clearly say you will not do whatever is being requested. Clarity does not have to be harsh.
It’s helpful to start with small things before the holidays; that will prepare you for bigger nos in the future.
Separate Yourself From the Reaction
The number one rule for boundaries is that you cannot control how the other person reacts to them. Again, this is especially true for codependent family relationships, or one where fear is involved. Having other people around – nontoxic family members, a supportive spouse – can help you handle poor reactions to boundaries.
Most importantly of all, figure out how you work. What triggers you? What do you feel in your body that warns you of anxiety or sadness? If you know what makes your brain tick, you’ll be able to prepare for family drama more thoroughly.
Do you have trouble setting or maintaining boundaries with your family? Therapy can help. An experienced therapist can help you understand your family’s dynamics and your role in managing them. Azevedo Family Psychology is happy to help you get started. Schedule an appointment with us today!