Setting Boundaries this Holiday Season

The holidays are a time for celebration and cheer, but they can also be highly stressful, especially when it comes to relationships. One way you can reduce stress and be good to yourself this holiday season (and let’s be honest, probably well into the new year) is by setting boundaries.

Here are our tips on setting boundaries and taking care of yourself. 

Why are boundaries so hard to set and stick to?

Setting boundaries with people you love can feel like a betrayal, especially if you’ve never set a clear boundary with them before. The boundary conversation can be super awkward, even if you know it’s an important one to have. Speaking up for yourself can feel mean and inconsiderate, but really it’s one of the best things you can do to keep healthy relationships. As our lives change, so do our specific needs. Especially in the midwest, we tend to put everyone else before ourselves, but you have got to put your oxygen mask on before helping others. There’s added pressure during the holidays to give and give, and please everyone around us. In reality, if your own needs aren’t being met, it’s really hard to meet the needs of others. 

What does it look like to not have healthy boundaries?

Not having healthy boundaries means hiding your feelings or wishes to make others comfortable. It can be rolling your eyes but still going along, giving in to the wishes of others when you really don’t want to, or feeling responsible for managing the behavior or emotions of others. Lacking boundaries can chip away at your relationships with others, and even your relationship with yourself. Respecting boundaries is a sign of respect and it’s a way of showing someone you care about them (even if that someone is you)!

What are good boundaries to set with parents, especially during the holidays?

Setting boundaries with parents can be especially hard. We grow up with our parents as the authority figures, and setting boundaries with them can feel like a bizarre role reversal. Although they can be some of the hardest to set, they’re also some of the most important. The holidays can be an especially difficult time to set boundaries. There are big expectations to have a good time and not rock the boat in any way.

Here are some totally okay, probably necessary, boundaries you can set during the holidays:

Not traveling, or visiting family during the holiday season

Taking some alone time, or skipping out on an activity

Eating whatever you want without commentary from others

Disengaging in controversial conversation 

Not drinking alcohol

Wearing what you feel comfortable in

What are good boundaries to set during the pandemic?

This year has presented so many challenges, and one of those is setting good boundaries. Staying safe means different things to different people right now, and everyone is being asked to make calculated and distinct choices about their behavior. A loved one may see having dinner with a few people as safe, whereas you may prefer to join via Zoom. It’s super important right now to communicate what feels safe and good for you, and make sure your loved ones respect boundaries for you, even if it is different from their own.

Here are some totally okay, probably necessary, boundaries you can set around the pandemic: 

Not seeing family and friends in person, even for special occasions

Not seeing family or friends who do not practice the same safety measures as you

Not engaging in controversial conversation 

Not participating in activities that make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable

Sticking to practices that make you feel safe, even if your loved ones disagree

Not traveling or visiting family

Not hugging loved ones

Only participating in gatherings that adhere to your comfort (like having a meal outside, or going for a walk with masks on)

How can I effectively communicate my boundaries to people I love?

Here is an easy and effective script you can use! Remember, it isn’t your responsibility to manage anyone’s feelings or reactions when you set a clear boundary with them.

I feel [insert emotion] when you [insert behavior] because [insert reason]. I need [insert specific needs]. 

Here is an example:

I feel disrespected when you continue to ask why I’m not coming home for Christmas because I don’t want to travel. I need you to respect my decision.