Setting boundaries with family concerns most of us as the holiday season draws nearer. We’ve all been there; an upcoming family party is near, and the feeling of impending doom hits. Family should be a source of encouragement, love, and belonging. We shouldn’t have to tolerate toxic personalities because of DNA.
6 methods for effectively setting family boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries is important for your overall well-being. Here are some ways to deal with hard-to-please family members during the holidays and set better conversational limits:
- Consider opting out
You do not have to participate in every single conversation. You do not have to have a conversation with anyone you don’t want to. That doesn’t mean you have to be rude; you can bow out gracefully and pivot out of conversations you don’t want to have by saying something like, “I need to go refill my drink,” or, “I need to go to the restroom.”
- Redirect the conversation
If someone asks you a question that you don’t want to answer, you can either ignore it or redirect it. Most people want to talk about themselves anyway, so if Uncle Bob comes at you with, “So why did you get a divorce?” you can respond with, “Oh, you know, let’s put that on hold because I heard you got a new job and I want to hear about that.”
- Flip the script
If someone persists in being intrusive even after you try to redirect them and they are not respecting your boundary, question the questioner. If anyone keeps pressing you for information that you don’t want to share, you can flip it back on them and say, “Why would you ask me that?” or, “Why do you want to know that?” It’s not confrontational; it’s all about your presentation and your tone.
- Use your body language
Your body can be your ally when it comes to setting boundaries. Practice being aware of and in control of your body language.
- Stop inappropriate comments in their tracks
It’s all about using your tone effectively to achieve this.
- Nip interrupters in the butt
There is always a way to express a boundary request respectfully and politely. You can be firm and kind without being aggressive. Boundaries do not have to equal aggression.
Setting boundaries: Start with respecting yourself
The most important relationship you have is the one with yourself. Prioritize protecting yourself from anything that disrupts your peace. Toxic family relationships look a lot like people ignoring your needs, feelings, and boundaries because their priorities trump yours.
We are taught to respect our elders, so we go into a “child-like” position. But it’s not so much a matter of respecting our elders as it is of respecting ourselves first and then handling the situation or conversation in a respectful manner from our adult selves rather than our childhood selves.
Takeaway: Setting boundaries with family
- What separates the best from the rest has nothing to do with the external and everything to do with the internal version of ourselves. How we show up, how we react, how we respond, and how we don’t respond matters.
- We carry the things we have yet to heal from our childhood with us, and they will impact our relationships until we choose to heal them.
- As you continue to grow and do your healing work, it doesn’t mean the people around you are going to like it, especially if they have yet to do their own work.
Dr. Janie Lacy, LMHC, NCC, CSAT-S is a Licensed Relationship Trauma Psychotherapist. She is also a faculty member with the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals and an entrepreneur who took her counseling business from a solo practice to a group specialty practice. She’s the creator of Woman Redeemed, an intensive experiential group experience that uses proven therapy strategies to start women on their healing journey.
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