How to Set Boundaries During the Holidays

Boundaries

How to Set Boundaries During the Holidays

Let’s talk about BOUNDARIES. These are especially important as we are fully immersed in the holiday season. They are not always easy to set and incredibly important to have.

What’s a boundary?

A boundary is a limit we place around things that make us uncomfortable, can cause conflict or goes against our value system. We need them in our lives because they communicate to others what we want and what we expect from them.

Benefits of boundaries:

There are a lot of benefits to setting boundaries, both for adults and children. For adults, it can help in many ways. The top three for me are:

  1. You get your needs met — By being clear about what you need, you have a greater likelihood that your needs will be met by others.
  2. You avoid resentment — People can’t read your mind, but we often expect them to do so. If you ask for what you need clearly, you can avoid that resentment that builds when you expect people just “to know”.
  3. You feel safer — When people push your boundaries, you may feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Being clear and following through is self-protective.

For children:

  1. Safety — Children feel safer when they know what the limits are for themselves and for others. They like to know what to expect and boundaries provide that to them.
  2. Helps build patience — For some children, having to navigate boundaries teaches acceptance and patience in positive ways.
  3. Teaches responsibility and self-reliance — Boundaries teach children how to ask for what they want and helps them advocate for themselves. Both of these build self-esteem and a sense of self-confidence.

The benefits of boundaries are endless. Often though, it’s hard to know where to begin or how to set them. Setting healthy boundaries starts with yourself. You have to identify what your OWN boundaries are before you can express them to others. We need to think about the things that may make us uncomfortable or may cause unnecessary conflict and then recognize that we can ask for what we need. It’s better to disappoint others than ourselves. Sometimes, setting boundaries will do that. That doesn’t mean you should flex a boundary that works for you. Start with yourself and your values; Identify what will make you most comfortable; Repeat it when needed and Stick to it.

Teaching children how to set boundaries starts with modeling how to do it for them. It’s also important to listen to your children so you know what their boundaries are. Then, you can support them in establishing them with others. An important way to help may be to practice with role plays at home, so they feel equipped to say what they want confidently. Having the confidence to stand up for themselves is important and people will react more positively that way.

When we don’t have boundaries, we can often feel lost or confused. Many of us may feel unsafe and unsure as to how we can ask for what we want or need when we haven’t been taught how to set boundaries or how to ask for what we need. Asking for what we need requires some vulnerability, which may be scary, but it’s necessary to get what we need from those in our lives.

How do we do this at holiday time, especially around family?

This is so hard and something we all struggle with at different times, especially with family. We are often told to “ just let it go” or “can’t we just….”, which often causes us to compromise our own values. It’s important to think about what boundaries you want to set and how to do it.

  1. Set boundaries BEFORE the holiday — If you know that aunt who always talks politics is coming to your holiday celebration, speak with her (or whomever is in charge) and let them know that you don’t intend to engage in that conversation because it always leads to conflict. If you know your child doesn’t like hugs, let everyone know that they won’t be hugging and make another suggestion (maybe a fist bump or elbow tap) for engagement.
  2. Follow through — Be careful to follow through on your ask. If you establish the boundary, be ready to follow through on what you need.
  3. Stand up for what you want — Don’t shy away from reminding people, kindly, about what you asked for. Even when they push back, stand firm and ask again.
  4. Use your supports — Lean on those around you to support you in your ask.

Boundaries have an endless amount of benefit to us all. Once you identify what yours are, be confident in asking for what you want and need. If you don’t, you can’t expect others to do so either.

Authored by: Dr. Jennifer Hartstein