With the holiday season rapidly approaching, being able to set boundaries with family members is an important skill to think about. Setting boundaries is ultimately a life skill. It is a way to give yourself agency and choice in your relationships with others. Therefore, discussing what you are okay with and not okay with before big family gatherings is important. Some important topics that could be communicated, and examples of each are:
- Mental health
“Please don’t make any comments on what I am eating when I come home for thanksgiving. Statements like that hurt me.”
“This year I would like to avoid being in the kitchen due to some triggering thoughts that surface when I am around certain objects.”
- Certain people/family members
“If Uncle Tom will be at Christmas this year I won’t be going. I have bad memories associated with him”
“Please don’t talk about dad around me. I am working through some stuff in relation to him”
- Particular events
“Can we not talk about any of my hospitalizations during the holiday. It brings up bad memories for me.”
“I would like to avoid the topic of car crashes. I’m still working through my recent one.”
These are just a few examples of how you can communicate your needs to family members in order to make the holiday season more enjoyable for everyone. It may be beneficial to ask family members what some of their boundaries are (if any), in order to all be on the same page. Ultimately, it is important to have these hard conversations in order to create a positive environment. Sometimes setting boundaries is difficult, and family members aren’t always receptive to your needs. Therefore, listed below are some ways to handle those difficult situations.
- Recognizing that your needs are important and should be valued
- Use the support of understanding family members/friends when setting boundaries with difficult family members
- Getting defensive can cause additional tension. Let it be clear what you want, but be kind while doing it.
- Make sure your expectations are realistic
- Be willing to leave situations when your boundaries are not being accepted
- Be direct in your expectations and when your boundaries are being disrespected.
- Learn to be assertive
All of these points will help you to not only set boundaries with difficult family members, but stay true to yourself. It can be hard to set boundaries, and even harder to make sure others follow through with respecting them. Therefore, it is important to use your resources and be assertive, especially with difficult family members.