Set Ground Rules With Family This Holiday Season

The holiday season is here once again and that means that there will be many upcoming family events over the next few weeks. Whether you’re traveling for the holidays, or staying home, it’s important to be thinking about the boundaries you want to create for those you will be interacting with. 

If you’re recently went through a divorce or separation, that may come up in conversation so it’s important to think in advance about how you want to respond to those questions as well as what you will allow yourself to openly share with others. If you have kids, it’s also going to be important to think about what you will allow with your family this year and will be healthy for your children.

Here are some tips to help you set ground rules and boundaries with your family this holiday season:

Set A Definite Time Limit On The Duration Of Your Visit

Whether you’re traveling or staying local over the holidays, rather than spending your visit negotiating, defending, or apologizing about how long you will stay, focus on quality instead of quantity. If a ninety-minute lunch is the most likely setting for a successful visit, don’t feel guilty and spend six hours instead. And if you’re traveling don’t feel guilty if you only want to stay for a day or two instead of a full week. 

Set Some Boundaries

If your parents can’t help criticizing your home, its furnishing or your children, visit them at their home or at a neutral site. If you are traveling back home to their town for the holidays, you can always stay at a hotel and make it an even more special treat. When you are going through emotional turmoil as a result of a divorce, job loss or illness and you are reluctant to listen to your parents’ advice, don’t feel guilty in delaying when you will see them or in limiting what topics you will discuss.

Clearly communicate your boundaries

When you talk to your family about boundaries, be clear and specific; this is not the time to beat around the bush. For example, if you don’t want to talk to your parents about your love life, tell them directly that discussing your dating life is off-limits and not something they should be concerned with right now. You may interject that you’d rather focus on making a fun memory with them. By doing this, your boundaries are black and white, and this makes it easier for other people to respect them—even if they don’t understand them. Remember that you have the right to set boundaries, so communicate your needs clearly and don’t feel pressured to explain yourself.

Prepare for pushback

Unfortunately, not everyone will understand your boundaries or why you need them in the first place, so pushback isn’t uncommon. But know that when people resist your boundaries, it’s confirmation that boundaries are needed. Pushback can come in different forms: ignoring you altogether, guilting you into changing your mind, telling you you’re unreasonable, and so on. Don’t let any of these deter you. Instead, remember your needs and why they are important to you, and stand firm in what you will or will not tolerate.

Make sure you are consistent

If you want your family to respect your boundaries, you need to make sure that you are respecting your own boundaries too. By letting them slide every now and then, you are setting the example that it is OK if others aren’t making them a priority either. And unfortunately, when others see that you aren’t strict with your own boundaries, they aren’t going to take them very seriously either. So say no when you mean it, leave when you say you’re going to, don’t talk about things you said you didn’t want to, and so on. Hold yourself and others accountable, so your boundaries remain clearly established.

Psalm 147:14, “He makes peace in your borders; he fills you with the finest of the wheat.”

With firm boundaries and ground rules in place, you can ensure that the holidays will be an enjoyable time for you and your kids. The Bible reminds us that the Lord invites us to create boundaries with others and in turn he will make peace within our borders.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

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