Setting Boundaries with Family

With holiday season quickly approaching, this frequently means increased time with family members. For many of us, our familial relationships can be complicated and complex, and the holiday season can bring an increase in anxiety. Going into this time of year with a good understanding of what boundaries you are needing to set to support your mental and physical wellbeing can support you in enjoying your time with loved ones instead of building feelings of frustration and resentment.

What are boundaries?

Boundaries can be set around physical, emotional, mental, or material needs. Some common examples include: How much space does my body need and who can touch me? How much time would I like to spend with others verses alone? What areas of my home are open to host guest and what areas are off limits? What conversation topics am I willing and not willing to engage in? Who am I willing and not willing to talk to or spend time with?

One of the first steps in boundary setting is to identify the boundaries that feel most important to you. Many times our top priorities correlate with our triggers. For example, If discussing politics feels triggering to you, it may be an appropriate boundary to set with others that this is not a topic of conversation you are willing to engage in.

Give yourself permission to set boundaries that work for you, instead of worrying about potential judgment or disappointing others. When we set boundaries, those around us typically have some feelings about this change in behavior. Boundary setting is all about being clear on your needs, and asserting your needs, even with the potential of others being upset. Depending on the relationship, it can be beneficial to have a conversation with loved ones that you are working on communicating boundaries clearly, and they may notice a shift in how you communicate with them.

How to communicate boundaries clearly?

Practice saying no! If saying no seems like too big of a change, start with saying “I need some time to think about that before I give you an answer”.  Practicing communicating what you are willing to do is also helpful in boundary conversations.

I am not able to _____, I am willing to _____. Some examples could include:

I am not able to attend Thanksgiving this year, I will plan to call you that evening to connect and hear about your day.

I am not open to giving hugs today, please respect my space and request.

I would love to host a gathering at my home, please know that the upstairs of our home is off limits to guests.

I am looking for to attending dinner, I am not willing to talk about __(food choices, politics, topics that feel too personal, triggering, and/or off limits to you)__.

Start practicing and give some of these examples a try!

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