How to Set Boundaries Around the Holidays

The holiday season can be filled with joy and happiness, one of innocence and quality time with loved ones. But it can also be a time of great stress. Codependents and People Pleasers can struggle a lot around the holidays because of the deep fear of disappointing family or friends. Trying to juggle spending time with everyone and not missing any opportunity to visit every person on your list can make the holidays less than relaxing.

Ever since I went to college out of state I was always traveling for the holidays, visiting family in Washington D.C. and then home to Northern New York for Christmas or a few years we did some international traveling for Christmas. Sometimes that much moving can be stressful but in practicing healthy boundaries recently there are some tips that I think can help you get through the holiday season in one piece.

Figure Out What You Want YOUR Holiday to Look Like

Take some time to think about how you’d ideally like to spend the holidays, is it at home with your partner, where you exchange only small gifts? Is it bouncing from home to home attending Friendsgivings and family events? Or is it splitting the holidays one with your family and one with your partner’s? It may also be helpful to write down your ideal holiday plans that way you can get all your thoughts out and then you can share them with whoever is involved. There are so many people involved when making holiday plans that compromise is key, so think really hard about what key points in your plan are nonnegotiables and what you feel you can live without when it comes to your plans.

It’s Your Holiday Vacation Too

Remember while you’re running around trying to find the perfect gifts for every family member or planning the perfect 6-course meal for Friendsgiving remember that your needs are just as much as anyone else’s. Take some time to take care of yourself, relax and do things that will bring you joy even if it’s not exactly what everyone else wants to do.

Layout Your Boundaries Clearly & Early

I’ve always struggled with boundaries, but being asked about your relationship status, when you’re going to start a family are topics that many times come up at family gatherings. Remember you don’t have to entertain them and are very much in your right to ask the person politely to refrain from inquiring. You can also set boundaries of who can and can’t attend just make sure you are communicating these boundaries clearly with your partner or family are aware.

You Don’t Need to Be The Hero of the Holidays

For many many years, I felt like I needed to save Christmas, I did everything I could to keep the peace and make Christmas perfect for everyone attending, I would bite my tongue and not speak my mind for fear of rocking the boat. I would also put a lot of financial pressure on myself to make sure everyone in my family got “enough” gifts. What I didn’t realize is you don’t need to carry the burden of all the holiday planning and buying on your own. Make sure if you’re feeling overwhelmed ask for help in the kitchen, or with the planning, gift-wrapping, or even the travel.

If the Conversation Goes off course, you don’t have to match the energy in the room and are more than in your right to walk away.

Along with your relationship status, another topic of conversation that inevitably comes up is politics, and right now I think a common polarizing topic is also the COVID Pandemic. Don’t feel as though you need to engage or be present for those conversations. Simply say you aren’t interested in engaging in this conversation and ask to change the subject. If the person still engages and doesn’t respect your request you’re in your right to leave the room or even the house.

People will be themselves

You don’t have to invite your racist uncle to your Thanksgiving dinner. If you still feel obligated make sure to set boundaries with him. Those people you are afraid that will act out make sure you set strong boundaries with them. Tell your uncle “If you talk about politics in front of my friends I will ask you to leave” when you reach out with the invite. With this statement, you’re setting expectations and a consequence if he disrespects your boundary. If there’s a friend that doesn’t interact with others very easily you are welcome to leave them off the invite list.

Create an exit strategy

Finally, if you’re trying to check off parties and events make sure to create an exit plan and express that with your significant other. Don’t feel obligated to linger, once dinner is finished and pie is consumed you’re welcome to make your way out don’t feel obligated to stay longer than you’re tolerant of. I feel like the pandemic has affected my ability to socialize. I find it really difficult and draining being in large crowds and even hosting parties. Know where your limit is and don’t be afraid to leave when you’re ready.

The holidays don’t have to be challenging or stressful. Hopefully, these tips help you as well.


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