Is this the “most” time of year for you too? While there are breaks from school (and maybe work too), many of us find our schedules BUSIER than ever with extra holiday celebrations and fun events. A friend shared with me last holiday season that their family had SEVEN family holiday gatherings to attend within a week’s time. She, her partner, and their children were all exhausted and at each other’s throats by the end of it all. It was too much. Here’s an invitation to set some proactive boundaries in your lives now, before the “most” time of year gets the best of you and your family too!
A boundary is what YOU will do during a circumstance, not what you’re asking someone else to do. A boundary set by you is within your control to keep it. Sometimes boundaries during the holiday season are especially hard to set and keep. While setting boundaries during a typical week may be challenging for some (maybe most) of us, at least there’s plenty of practice to keep the boundaries we set. During the holiday season, though, FOMO gets the best of us and we may try to fit one-more-thing in when we’d usually say ‘no.’ A question to consider when choosing what to say ‘yes’ to and what to say ‘no’ to is this: When you look at your family’s holiday plans, how does your entire weekly schedule leave you feeling? If you feel overwhelmed or stressed just looking at it all at once, it’s probably a good sign it WILL be too much to live through too. That would be a good time to set boundaries with phrases similar to the following:
- Thank you for inviting us! We cannot commit to any more than we already have, but maybe next year!
- We have decided to celebrate Christmas at home this year, so we won’t be traveling on Christmas Eve and therefore won’t be able to attend. I’m sorry we’ll miss it.
- Our family’s Hanukkah observance is that week and we are unavailable.
- You’re thoughtful to remember me, but unfortunately I cannot attend.
Setting boundaries with our loved ones are also very useful during the holiday season. Just like with all boundaries, when spoken in a kind and respectful manner, boundaries are not rude. While some of us who are people-pleasers find it difficult or even “mean” to set boundaries, if the delivery is kind, you can set a firm boundary and then hold it. Boundaries with loved ones can also be set proactively. Here are some examples:
- Topical boundary: “It’s best we don’t talk about XXX topic right now. If it gets brought up, I will walk away and end our conversation.”
- Time related boundary: “I can stop by for a visit, but will only be able to do so for 1 hour.”
- Gift related boundary: “We have chosen to limit our budget for gift giving this year and won’t be participating in the gift receiving or gift giving.”
- Physical boundary: “We don’t require our children to share their bodies with hugs or physical affection if they don’t wan to. Please respect her space.”
- Parenting boundary: “I can handle the parenting of my children, thank you. I’ve got this. I’ll let you know if I need your help in managing the children.”
This list could go on and on. What are some boundaries you’d like to set this holiday season? Add them to this list and practice them before the situation arises when you’ll need to use them. Setting kind but firm boundaries can protect you and your family’s emotional space this season, allowing it to feel less chaotic and be more enjoyable and peaceful. Happy Holidays!