How to Keep Your Boundaries Through the Holidays


Copyright: Photo © Michael Goldman

Can we be honest for a second, and acknowledge that just because the holidays are rolling around, doesn’t mean that everything in our families is going to become Hallmark-card (or movie!) worthy?

You know better.

Whether it’s a toxic parent, an addicted relative, or all-around lurking drama mama (or drama king!), we all have those relatives.

Did you hear that?

We ALL have one or two (or more) of those relatives.

There is no perfect family, family, and if they look perfect, you better check you’re not in a Jordan Peele Get Out type scenario - because there’s some fake and toxic nastiness under all that flash.

Okay, now that we know we’re all normal, and we’re NOT broken, snooty, damaged, better than, black sheep, or any other words you’ve heard, let’s talk about how to maintain your boundaries during the holidays.

Know your limits, and sometimes, you do need to set limits with those you love most.

Is there a relative you have a specific issue with, or have some hurting history? Make sure you know your limits going in - and that anyone who rode with you is aware of your limits. Blood doesn’t mean love, and it sure doesn’t mean healthy, either. Setting healthy boundaries can mean the difference between estrangement and speaking.

Identify your needs, and your wants - and make sure you remember they are separate.

You need your children to be safe. YOU need to be safe. You WANT to control a potentially painful or harmful situation. There’s a big difference. You can’t control others’ behaviors - only how you respond. If your needs are taken care of, your wants can become options. If your needs are not met, as in, a relative is drinking too much and has suddenly become handsy with you or your child and you don’t feel safe - wanting to stay is irrelevant.

Speak up, speak calm, and speak direct.

Say what you mean, calmly and clearly. So much of our family drama is because we don’t speak clearly, leaving room for interpretation and guesswork. Does it feel harsh in the moment? Sometimes. But does it save a lot of time and family grapevine, hurtful gossip later? Yes. “I’m sorry, I will have to connect with you another time. I’m leaving because did for the second time, after I politely asked them not to, and I’m no longer accepting that behavior.”

Whether it’s to a second helping (or even a first if that person is cooking), or to going somewhere, eating something, or acting some way - just say no.

No, my friend, is a complete sentence. It does not require an explanation or an apology. It’s a no.

Finally, if you feel like it may be necessary for you to leave early, make a plan ahead of time.

Drive yourself or make sure you have an escape hatch or route that is NOT in the same house. If you can be located, the issue can continue. If you do have others ride with you, be honest and upfront and let them know you may need to leave early and request they have alternate routes ahead of time. In this age of rideshare economy, there is absolutely NO reason blame should be placed on you for “ditching” someone, if you need to leave for your own mental health. There are plenty of options available.