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4 Steps To Setting Boundaries With Family Over The Holidays

Are you dreading the holidays this season because of all the invasive questions your family members or relatives are going to ask?

While presumptuous questions can zap your mood and kill the holiday cheer, perhaps feeling prepared can ease your mind. Knowing how to respond can make you feel like quite the badass because they won't expect your savvy reply.

Here are some questions that may come up at the dinner table:

  • Where are you living these days?

  • When are you going to stop doing x, y, and z?

  • How come you choose to live your life that way?

  • When are you getting married?

  • You don’t look the same. What did you do differently?

  • Your viewpoints aren't facts. I think you need to do some research.

  • What are you waiting for? You are only getting older.

  • Where do you work these days?

While your family may think they know what’s best for you at the end of the day it’s your life and a private matter. Keeping your lifestyle private can be beneficial to your mental and emotional health, as it's not their business. Even though you may want to shove a pumpkin pie in their face…it's better to own your power and set healthy boundaries. This will help you maintain your inner peace and enjoy the holidays this season.

Establishing your boundaries with family members starts with knowing your personal limits and emotional triggers. If you are self-aware of what may upset you this can help you navigate conversations with ease by staying three steps ahead of your relatives so you can respond with grace.

Step 1: Define your triggers with specific relatives

Once you have established your personal limits and emotional triggers for holiday conversations, then think about each topic and how it violates a personal boundary. For example, your Aunt Susie is asking about your relationship status. This is a big trigger for you this holiday season. You will want to connect your triggers, aka personal limits, to a personal value of yours so you know what a boundary you would need to set for this conversation.

Some values for these types of conversations may be mutual respect, peaceful communication, personal space, or privacy. Choosing your top core values can guide you to a mentally safe place so you can set healthy boundaries and confidently maintain your standards with your relatives without damaging the connection or offending anyone.

Step 2: Solidify your top three values in your relationships.

After defining your triggers and what pushes your buttons at the holiday dinner table, focus on the top three of your values. You will want to keep these in the back of your mind while engaging in conversations with your family. This way the minute a red light goes off in your mind you are aware of what value is being violated.

While interacting with your family and enjoying a meal, it can be super helpful to use discovery questions to gain insight or diffuse heightened emotion when experiencing comments that come across as offensive.

Discovery Questions are open-ended questions that allow you to understand how come your life is their concern or what makes them say something that’s not their place to say. By asking questions, it can shut down the power struggle and put it back on them while keeping you remain in a calm and collective state of mind.

Step 3: Ask discovery questions

  • What do you mean by that?

  • What about my career choice concerns you?

  • Help me understand, how is this topic appropriate for the dinner table?

  • Where did you come up with that perspective?

  • How is my love life impacting you?

  • What can we talk about that interests both of us?

After you have gathered more insight from your relatives, this will help you identify when to set a boundary based on one of your values to keep the connection healthy while standing up for yourself. Next, comes implementing the boundary.

Step 4: Set a boundary

Boundary Example 1: “I feel frustrated when my lifestyle becomes part of the family discussion. I value privacy. How about we find something else to talk about?”

Boundary Example 2: “I feel annoyed when I’m asked about the status of my love life. I value privacy. Can we agree that unless something changes we won’t talk about it?”

Boundary Example 3: “I feel angry when commenting on my beliefs. I value mutual respect. How do we agree to respect our differences when it comes to (x,y,z)?”

When establishing a boundary, you will want to address the behavior of the person versus the person themselves. Let them know what you value and ask how you both can agree to move forward to share healthy family conversations over the holidays.

If you need further assistance in establishing boundaries with relatives, please contact us here. We look forward to bringing you peace this holiday season!


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