Setting boundaries can be a difficult task, especially around family, as the relational systems in place can feel set in stone. Adding holiday celebrations into the mix can make boundary setting even harder, as each family member’s expectations are likely to differ.
Yet all hope isn’t lost. You can still set boundaries and stick to them, in a way that will make your time with family actually enjoyable.
A therapist shared eight phrases to say during the holidays so you can hold your boundaries with your family.
1. ‘We’re leaving at 6.’
Photo: cottonbro studio / Pexels
The first phrase on her list was a time constraint, which would allow you to set a clear schedule with your family in advance.
It can be easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of a family dinner, but by firmly stating when you’ll be leaving, you can avoid the feeling of being tapped out by too much time together.
2. ‘I won’t be in the middle, go talk to them.’
Family dynamics are tricky to navigate, especially during the holidays when the expectation of being happy and joyful can override how you actually feel. Maybe your parents expect you to act as the go-between for your family, and try to get you involved in conversations you don’t actually want to be a part of.
A simple yet direct way to shut down this kind of communication is to say that you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of a particular conflict, and you expect the people involved in the situation to speak to one another, without your interference.
3. ‘Enjoy church, we’ll join you after.’
Another potential conflict during the holidays can come from the expectation that everyone has the same religious affiliations, which may not be true.
A polite yet firm way to remove yourself from a religious situation you don’t want to be in is to simply say, “Enjoy yourselves, but we won’t be joining you.”
4. ‘Commenting on my food intake is unnecessary.’
Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t give anyone the right to talk about what you’re eating. Having seconds on dessert is entirely your decision, one that you should be able to make without extraneous harsh commentary from family members.
Photo : cottonbro studio / Pexels
You can shut down unwanted comments on how much (or how little) you’re eating by explicitly stating that the topic of food is not up for discussion.
5. ‘That’s all I’m willing to discuss right now.’
Conversations around the holiday table can get heated, especially when sensitive topics are brought up. Maybe your well-meaning grandma wants to know when you’re getting married, or having kids, or having more kids, but you don’t want to engage.
Setting a clear boundary on what you’ll talk about around family is a solid way to protect yourself from intrusive comments about your life choices, which, after all, are yours alone to make.
6. ‘I need to rest, I’ll be upstairs.’
Holiday dinners can become overwhelming, and you should never feel bad about taking some time for yourself to reset. Removing yourself from an overwhelming situation is a healthy move to make, one that prioritizes your mental health, which is the ultimate act of self-care.
7. ‘I need some quiet time, I’ll be out on a walk.’
Another variation on going upstairs to rest and reset is to tell your family you’re taking a walk. Getting fresh air is always a good thing, and so is moving your body and being in nature. Don’t feel bad if you need some time on your own, as being with family for extended periods of time can feel dysregulating to some.
Photo : Rachel Claire / Pexels
8. ‘My body is not a topic for discussion.’
Full stop, period, no more questions asked. There is never an appropriate time for your family to comment on your body. This boundary might feel especially emotional to set and stick with but remember: No matter what your body looks like, you are deserving of love, acceptance, and respect.
Reinforcing boundaries around family might prove challenging, yet upholding your inner peace is something you deserve, during the holidays and beyond.
Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango’s news and entertainment team. She covers family issues, pop culture analysis, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.