The holidays are upon us! For many, this is a time of rest, relaxation, and time with family. For many though, this is a time fraught with tension and turmoil – some are not even welcome to come home. Normally, I would use this as an opportunity to remind people to take time to practice gratitude, to engage in some self-reflection, and much-needed self-care. We can’t do any of that however without appropriate boundaries – both with ourselves and with our, sometimes difficult, family. Consider this your survival check-list for this holiday!
1. Learn to say, “no.”
This simple word is a complete sentence. Moreover, it is a fundamental word to help establish clear boundaries and enables us to maintain a sense of self-respect. We get lots of competing requests and demands. You are allowed to not attend every event, participate in every fundraiser, play Secret Santa, or watch every recital. Our time, energy, attention, etc. are ALL a finite resource and we are allowed to invest it only in the things most important to us.
2. Respectfully decline.
We joke about that “one Uncle” that each of us has, but the joke can be rooted in truth. Many of us have family members with whom we vehemently disagree – be it about social issues, politics, religion, etc. For some reason, that “one Uncle” seems to take great pleasure in poking at that issue in an attempt to provoke an argument. I would encourage you to pre-empt it. Once that hot topic comes up, accept it for what it is, “I appreciate the attempt to connect and have a conversation, but this is a subject about which we have always disagreed. I would love to catch up, but I am going to respectfully decline to discuss this and would like to change the subject.” It often helps to have a set of subjects you can suggest.
As mentioned, holidays are often unsafe for many. Especially those in the LGBTQ++ community. I often encourage my clients to have a nearby where friend they can reach out for a safe zone to retreat. You are not required to subject yourself to incessant misgendering, dead-naming, inappropriate questions regarding your body (or medical decisions), or your relationship with your “friend”. This is good safety planning!
4. Be pro-active.
One area that can be tricky for parents of college-age children is that there can be missed expectations. The child has been living on their own, establishing their routines, and fostering independence. When they come home, parents, sometimes, expect them to resume their previous role – i.e. coming home at specific times, pitching in with household responsibilities, spending specified times with family, and helping with younger siblings. Have a conversation when they first get home, set clear expectations about what you want from them and be flexible in adjusting to what is important to them!
I hope these simple suggestions help you navigate the holidays as stress-free and safely as possible! May you all be blessed!
Daniel Garner-Quintero, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor