Holidays are a time of fun, food, laughter and joy. Around this time of year many of us will experience a surge of invitations, get-togethers, social events with our loved ones.
Though it’s a special time of year to give thanks and celebrate, for many this can also be a time of stress and anxiety connected to unhealthy family dynamics.
The uncle that always asks when are you getting married. The cousin who always seems to be in competition with your accomplishments. The grandmother that questions your parenting. Or the older sibling that brings up religious or political dialogues that implode the family into uproar.
Though no family dynamic is perfect, these interactions can be disheartening and can be emotionally and physically exhausting.
So what do you do when family holiday’s turn into a dreaded nightmare?
Here are 3 tips on for setting boundaries during the holidays that will keep you sane:
Though it’s easy to get loose into your emotional thought space, take some time to breathe and create a plan. Write down a couple of your triggers during family gatherings and things you enjoy. Reflect on the parts you desire to engage in and the parts that you feel would be triggering our upsetting.
For example, dinner time might be conflict free and full of fun but during desert is when you start you feel uncomfortable or feel toxicity brewing. Setting a boundary and plan to leave by the end of dinner if that works best for you. Having a plan puts you in control, allows you to set boundaries, and allows you to engage on terms that make you feel most comfortable.
Express your needs assertively and respectfully
Though it might feel easy to just ignore unhealthy dialogues or statements stated by family members to keep the peace but it’s imperative for you to know that you do not have to sit in silence. You have every right to speak up for yourself. It is okay to give yourself permission to express how you are feeling assertively and respectful to family members that cross your boundaries.
A great technique to utilize this is using an “I-statement.” An I-statement is a style of communication that allows you to share how you are feeling directly. Many times, others underestimate how much their words and behavior are negatively emotionally impacting an individual. I-statement empowers you to assertively share what you feel and what you need from the other person while decreasing the like hood of defensiveness.
An example would be if your uncle constantly discusses your weight every Thanksgiving Holiday.
An example would be if your uncle constantly discusses your weight every Thanksgiving Holiday. Using an I statement would sound like:
- I feel hurt and disrespected
- When you discuss my weight
- Because I love who I am and who’ve I’ve been working towards health wise this year
- I need to appreciate my weight, not be a holiday discussion topic
Practice creating an I-statement of your own.
- I feel ______________________.
- When you _________________.
- Because ___________________.
- I need _____________________.
Focus on what you can control
It would be great if we all had a magical wand that allowed us to change things that we don’t like, but uncomfortably no wand exists. It’s important to focus on what you can control. Focusing on what you can control alleviates the experience of feeling overwhelmed over things that are out of your power.
You can control what you wear to the holiday gathering, but you cannot control what someone will say. You can control what time you get to your relatives house but cannot control who will choose to show up. You can control what input you offer to add to family discussions but cannot control inappropriate comments or inaccurate information provided by others.
Though we cannot change our family members, we can change how we respond to their behaviors. This does not mean you have to accept unhealthy behaviors of your family members but instead focus your attention on what you have the ability to change or respond to for yourself. Yes, you might not be able to change the comments someone in your family makes but you can choose to leave the room or use an I statement to express how you feel. Or even choose to not attend this year’s holiday extravaganza altogether. Honor your feelings and know that you do not have to put yourself in the direct fire of unhealthy family dynamics this holiday season.
Revolutionary Change Counseling clinical team understands how overwhelming and frustrating family dynamics can be during the holiday season. We are on standby to support you and help guide you towards generating safe boundaries that can not only keep you sane but emotionally stable during this season. Please call us at (813) 331-7673 for counseling services for individuals, couples, families and children. We are located in Apollo Beach and we service the Riverview, Brandon, Ruskin, Sun City, Seffner, Gibsonton and Bradenton Area.