The Holidays seem to have some polarizing effects on people, it can be either the most wonderful time of the year or a bah humbug of a season. But what is it that causes such a reaction? It isn’t necessarily about the presents, the food, the singing that makes this season so special, no not at all. It’s the people we share with around this time of year.
Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my in-laws and family, but after establishing our roots, my husband and I every year before the holidays have to revisit the types of boundaries and expectations we have with our family members and it gets real old, real quick.
We aren’t the only ones who seem to have a love/hate relationship with the holidays, according to a study in 2019 by SleepZoo.com while 81% of respondents said they will see family during the holidays, the site said, only 55 % indicated they're looking forward to it.
So, if you’re still wanting to brave the holidays with family or friends, here are some helpful guidelines when establishing boundaries for yourself and your family, and how to address it with them without causing World War 3.
1. Set realistic expectations for yourself
How often do we tell ourselves, “Oh this year will be different!” as we dream of a blissful family dinner where Uncle Ron decides to not delve into politics, and Cousin Debbie decides to ease up on the toxicity of adulting. But who are we kidding? I know that sounds rather pessimistic, but according to Dr. Leslie Thompson, by setting realistic expectations of how our family will behave the less likely we are to set ourselves up for disappointment.
2. Remember your “Why”
It’s hard to remember why we put ourselves through stressful situations, but if you choose to visit family and are having a hard time mid-visit remember why you wanted to go. By refocusing on our main point we recenter ourselves on our reasoning and goals.
3. Set firm boundaries
This can at times be the hardest to do. Before you head out of town, create a list either on your own or with your partner increating boundaries with your friends and family. This could look like a phone call or group chat ahead of time explaining that based on previous experiences you would rather not talk about politics, health issues, or other sensitive topics. Make sure everyone is on the same page so that you can all hold each other accountable.
4. Be willing to be flexible yet firm
Not everything your family does is great or agreeable, but neither are some of the things you do or say. When being a guest in another home, be firm in your boundaries but also flexible if there are changes in plans or arrangements. Sometimes we have to suck it up and deal with the fact that not everyone is going to do things the same way as us. Each family is going to have different habits and traditions that sometimes grate against us, but as a guest, we need to be willing to put differences aside and compromise a little to help the holidays go smoothly.
5. Know that it isn’t forever
Sometimes it feels like the holiday weekend couldn’t go any slower, but realize that you are only there for a limited time. It won’t be forever that you’re stuck at the in-laws or your family’s gathering. Now don’t have your eyes glued to the clock, but just know that it won’t be long till you’re on your merry wayback home.
6. It’s okay to take time for yourself
There are times even in my own house I have to tell my husband, “I love you, but I need to take a half-hour nap/social media scroll to reboot before I spend more time with you.”. You can do this too! There is nothing wrong with taking an hour's nap or a few minutes by yourself to get out of the noisy house or to decompress so you can be at your best. The best way to validate your family’s feelings while also looking out for yourself Thompson suggests saying, “Spending time with you is important to me. I can see that if I’m not spending time with you while you’re here, that can seem like I don’t care, but the way I’m wired is in order for me to be present and connect with you the way I want to, I have to recharge.”
7. Have an exit strategy
When boundaries are crossed or violated, have an exit strategy ready to implement. How are you going to be able to enforce boundaries if there aren’t any consequences? Letting your family know that if boundaries are crossed or violated one too many times could result in you leaving the situation or not having them at your home in future events. And then stick to it! Try to walk away from situations where topics being discussed that are sensitive to you or a change of topics could help diffuse the necessity to leave.
We know everyone’s family dynamics are different so we hope these bits of advice will help make this holiday a positive experience for everyone!
But if you can’t attend the holiday festivities with your family in person due to familial differences, COVID, or other reasons, send your relatives a Brightbox and add a personalized video message for your family members to see!