It’s upon us — the season of plenty!
And setting healthy boundaries while spending the holidays with family is more important than ever.
For many, Halloween through New Year’s Eve brings with it the nostalgia of friends, family, food, and cheer.
But, along with the twinkling lights and laughter, there’s the nagging and, at times, the intense stress and pressure that leave you longing for a little more simplicity and connectedness.
Holiday stress is finite but you can put boundaries in place to help reduce the negative impact that it has on you over the long term.
Boundaries are limits you set for yourself and they can be applied to many different parts of life. By setting healthy boundaries when spending the holidays with family, you check in with yourself to decide how you want to best support yourself and your mental health.
5 ways to set healthy boundaries while spending the holidays with family:
1. Prioritize your health and self-care.
Pause and take a mental inventory of what you know doesn’t work for you. Do you dread the coming months of poor sleep, lack of exercise, pressure, and overindulging?
With some self-reflection, make a plan for what you want to take in and what doesn’t serve you well. By planning ahead with mindfulness, help ensure that you’re getting the sleep and rest that your body needs.
Set boundaries with yourself and others around what you’re willing to participate in and when it’s time to step away. Be aware of your triggers to engage in mindful eating and drinking.
Do what you can to have healthy food options and nonalcoholic beverages at your disposal both at parties and at home during those days of re-set and recuperation.
Plan for mini holiday “detox” days sprinkled in between all the parties. When possible, stick to your routines and schedules that help reinstill your sense of control.
And, always remember that deep cleansing breaths when needed can reduce your level of negative stress in just a few moments.
2. Set expectations with your family and friends.
Plan ahead with friends and family so that you pick and choose when to say yes and when it’s best to say no. If you have a partner, this is the perfect time to get on the same page.
There’s nothing wrong with pulling out your calendar now to write up the holiday schedule. Planning ahead will help take some of the party prep stress away from you and others.
Setting expectations for who, when, and where can help make for more meaningful time together. Keep in mind that this can be a hard time of year for many people in a variety of ways.
Practice inclusion, empathy, and be mindful of others’ boundaries, too.
3. Create boundaries for and with your children.
During the season of excess, parents quickly fall into the trap of unlimited “yes,” leaving kids overtired, over-sugared, and just simply over it.
Sticking to routines and limits will actually help children stay connected and grounded as happy lasting memories are made. Again, planning ahead is key.
What are your family’s priorities? The lights, the home-cooked meals, the baking, the parties, and events. Oftentimes, kids won’t know what they are missing if you can’t or don’t want to do it all.
Knowing your limits and personal boundaries will allow you to enjoy the activities that you choose to engage in with mindful purpose and your kids will feel it, too. Also, consider what rules you want to set around tech use and screen time.
Set the boundaries you feel are realistic and then stick to them.
Be prepared for others to put their own hopes and expectations on your children. Well-intentioned grandparents and family may place undue pressure on you and your kiddos.
Clear communication around your preferences and expectations is crucial. More than just planning for meals and get-togethers over hasty phone calls, be clear with gift-giving and receiving expectations.
Communicating openly and setting boundaries can help your multigenerational family feel less pressure and more enjoyment while you spend quality time together. Also, don’t forget to show and teach your children appreciation.
A simple “thank you” can go a long way.
4. Identify your spending boundaries.
Set a budget around spending. Plan for the gifts you’ll be giving and do your best to stick to your budget.
Know when you’ve spent enough. Be mindful of sneaky expenses like holiday cards, stamps, baking supplies, and bottomless stockings.
Pay attention to the full picture as you plan for your wallet in the months ahead. You won’t be able to blame any family members for violating these boundaries if you spend more than you’re really able to.
5. Understand and communicate your safety boundaries.
With the Covid pandemic persisting, it’s important to stick to your boundaries around social interactions and safety. Communicate your boundaries to others in a kind and respectful way.
You can also set limits around news consumption during this time. Take a needed break from the upsetting headlines and devote your focus to your own well-being as well as that of others.
Now is the time for setting healthy boundaries to observe when it comes time for spending the holidays with family.
Communication, planning, and mindfulness will help you set simple boundaries so that you can enjoy bonding time and have a great vacation with loved ones.
Julie Mayer Norvilas, LMFT, is a Marriage and Family Therapist dedicated to helping cultivate healthy relationships. To learn more, check out her website.