How to Set Boundaries With Your Family This Christmas with Amy D. - E020
Do you know how to set boundaries during Christmastime? Dealing with holidays is different for everyone. For some of you might be a great experience and for others might be a struggle. I've come to realize that Christmas is a holiday I don't particularly love.
On today's episode, I share what're the reasons Christmas is not my favorite holiday, how I set boundaries to make it through this period without putting pressure on myself and how you can do it for yourself.
So If you're someone that believes Christmas is a struggle for you and you're looking for a healthy way to set boundaries with your family over the holiday season, this episode is for you!
Stay tune in, give it a listen and then message me with your biggest takeaway! Go ahead and listen to this episode and then message me on Instagram in case this is a subject you want to talk about!
> Why I find the Christmas holiday to be miserable and how I keep my sanity during holiday time (00:30)
> Healthy ways to create boundaries with your family (07:19)
> Putting your well-being of yourself or your children's ahead is one of the most healthiest things you can do, and sets an amazing example for your children (09:31)
> Why it's crucial to practice saying No and what happens when you don't (11:27)
> Having a list of coping mechanisms that you can implement is so important (13:40)
E020: How to Set Boundaries With Your Family This Christmas
Do you know how to set boundaries with your family during Christmas? No matter the time of year, boundaries are important, and it’s up to you to design and implement them.
Amy: [00:00:36] Welcome back to this holiday episode of What We're Not Talking About. If you didn't catch the last quote unquote “holiday episode,” it basically just means we're giving you strategies that you can implement during the holiday season, because, if your family is anything like mine, it's a struggle. That's a bit of an understatement, but still, it's a struggle.
I'm going to give a little background about my experience with Christmas. Not like what I've done with my family, but why I have grown to really find Christmas and the holidays to be quite miserable. Also, how I was able to implement boundaries and tips for you to also implement boundaries for yourself. And to keep some sanity during this crazy time.
I have always been sick during Christmas from a very young age. I've had strep throat a lot of times, ear infections, and really bad flus. I remember in 2000, going into the whole Y2K debacle, I had strep throat and Scarlet fever at the same time. That was insane. Now, to top it off, I also had an incredibly terrifying Christmas with my family. Actually, I think it was Christmas Eve. Or it might've been Christmas day, I can't a hundred percent remember.
Now, I grew up in a relatively okay household until about 2000, when my father started to get quite overweight.
With that came a lot of mental health and physical ailments that he didn't know how to process. He didn't know how to deal with them. So, he put a lot of his anger and frustration onto my mother and I. I am an only child, so I will say that the holidays are especially difficult for us only children out there because we're alone. And, of course, this was before I knew how to set boundaries with my family (or could for that matter).
[00:02:43] I remember this day quite clearly. In fact, I'm actually starting to think that it might've been the same year. It might've been 2000 as well, but my parents got into this huge fight, a monumental fight. In fact, I think it was one of the first big arguments I remember with my parents. Although, from then on, they did become an almost daily occurrence for most of my adolescents and preteen years.
I don't even remember what the fight was about, but my father threw a hissy fit and was like, “I'm not going with you. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Bear in mind, this was Christmas. And he eventually gave in because we were going to see his family or his side of the family; my family too. But his side of the family. And my mother wasn't going to go by herself and me. So, he ended up, reluctantly, giving in. However, he was normally the one who drove and again, threw a hissy fit and he was like, “I'm going in the back seat.” Nobody talked to me.
My grandparents lived about an hour and a half away from us.
And where I'm from in Nova Scotia, the weather is crap on a good day, especially in the winter. Unfortunately for this Christmas, it had snowed and then it was turning to freezing rain, and it was this very horrible situation outside.
But it was Christmas and it was our scheduled time to spend with that side of the family so we had to go. Now, we were about 15 minutes away, if not less and my mom hit black ice. I have this very vivid memory of screaming because I was in the front seat and I was at that age where I probably shouldn't been in the front seat, but I was in the front seat. This was before parents are really hypervigilant about this. And I thought I was going to die. In fact, I almost knew I was going to die.
[00:04:44] On one side of the road, which was the side that we were on, there was a deep 15 to 20 foot cliff. On the other side, it was just a shallow runoff for water because there were houses on the other side. And, because I live in North America are driving on the right side of the road, my mom couldn't gain control. I'm screaming, my father is screaming, and my mother is screaming. She just let go of the wheel because she was like, “I can't control anything.” I had a blanket with me and I remember, very oddly, calmly, just throwing it over my face and thinking to myself, “I don't want to watch myself die.”
All of a sudden there was a huge bang and I wasn't dead.
In fact, the passenger side airbag didn't even go off, which was an even bigger surprise because it should have. I was quite small for the airbags, so that would've made an even bigger issue. Actually, I don't think both airbags went off. I can't really remember. It doesn't really matter.
But I remember taking the blanket off and getting up and being like, “What the heck just happened?” Crazily enough, our car wasn't even that wrecked, and we went headfirst into a brick wall. Now, I swear to you I thought I was going to die, but from that moment I hate Christmas.
I hated it because it marked the fact that my family was always yelling and that the only reason we were together was because of this expectation that we were supposed to put everything aside on Christmas. I just felt it was very fake, and I hated it because I grew up in a family of lies, and to me, this was just an extension of that. And how to set boundaries with my family wasn’t something I even knew of.
Then you have the whole all the other stuff when it comes to Christmas. You know, capitalism isn't great. Expectations. All these family commitments that we don't necessarily want to execute or attend, but we have to in the spirit of Christmas. And I just have never really liked it.
[00:06:56] Now, I've had so many conversations with friends and family members questioning why I would believe in this, why I don't like the holiday.
I would pretty much explain the same thing that I just explained to you, and they just didn't get it. They heard me, but they didn't understand me, which made it even worse because I felt like I didn't necessarily fit in with my family members. So I had to learn how to set boundaries with my family.
I'm sure you can understand that Christmas sucks for me. And, unfortunately, since then, my father died in December and a few other things have happened in the month of December that have just made Christmas really not great. The plus side is that my birthday's in January, so I always look forward to that during the Christmas time. And because I'm an only child, let me tell you, that day is the best of the year.
Now, if this sounds familiar to you or there's some element of truth in my story for you as well, I want to explain to you some healthy ways that I created and set boundaries with my family. Now, my mantra for the holidays, and really for my life, is everything is impermanent. It allows me to get through the really hard times.
Unfortunately, everything is impermanent, all your happiness and your positivity. We have days where it just kicks us in the butt. I had that yesterday. In fact, it was one of the worst days of anxiety I've had in 2020, and I think that's saying something.
Create a mantra for your time with your family.
[00:08:42] We talked about this in the previous episode about creating a mission statement. These are very similar. A mantra to me is something that I repeat over and over again, to help me get through the moment that I'm struggling through. This is a first in how to set boundaries.
There's preliminary work when it comes to setting boundaries, you really have to understand that you are the most important being in your life. It really comes down to valuing yourself and also your time. Remember, this period of the holidays is insane. Then COVID is happening and a lot of people are choosing correctly, if I may say so, to not spend time with their family during this Christmas period in places of high risk when it comes to COVID transmission.
There's going to be a lot of backlash, especially if you have family members that don't believe in COVID or believe that it's being strung out of proportion or what have you. Also, you need to give yourself permission to do what's best for you. So many times, especially people that grew up in toxic families, doing that for themselves, they may have been labeled selfish, like I have in the past or self-involved.
But putting the well-being of yourself and your immediate family, such as children, ahead of your racist or sexist uncle or mother who just does not support you, is one of the healthiest things you can do and sets an amazing example for your children.
Now, this is where we get into the nitty gritty of it.
You need to recognize and know and anticipate your triggers.
For me, I can deal with gossip when it comes to petty gossip like, “Oh my gosh, her shoes are so last season,” or, ”Did you hear so and so slept with so-and-so?” What I can not deal with is something that is racist or misogynist or something that is a value I hold very near and close to my heart.
[00:11:00] This is where I encourage you to do some journaling, write down what you think your triggers are, and really get to know them so you can anticipate them. Because, unfortunately, we can't prevent the triggers unless we 100% disengage with everyone, but we can anticipate them. If we can anticipate them, that gives us a much better chance to lessen the blow.
Now that you have those steps, now is where you are clear about your needs and expectations and you communicate them. This is the hardest part. A lot of us search for what we can do when it comes to creating boundaries when a lot of the time the answer is very clear and in our face.
We just have to say them. And although they might not be respected, setting boundaries is the first step in order for them to be respected.
Another crucial element of how to set boundaries is to practice saying no.
If you're anything like me, you're a tiny bit of a pushover. In other words, you're someone that states their boundaries and communicates them. But when they're pushed back on by a mother or a sibling who, you know in your heart, doesn't mean any bad, you tend to be a little lenient with them.
However, this does two things. One, it teaches other family members that you're not serious about your boundaries. And two, it teaches your direct family member that you're dealing with that you're not serious about your boundaries. And this is not great when you’re trying to learn how to set boundaries.
[00:12:52] Maybe you have four boundaries that you really want to set, and that’s one, you're not going to stay overnight. Two, you're not going to eat all the sugar. Three, you don't have the cash to buy presents for everyone. And four, you do not tolerate hate speech. What you need to then do is figure out what happens when they potentially do occur in your environment.
That's why practicing saying no is important. Because if you're not in the practice of knowing how to set boundaries, communicating them and then enforcing them, it's going to be very easy to be like, “Okay, just one more sweet,” or one more racist comment from your aunt, or whatever it is.
You've got to really get in the practice.
That's why it's important to do this ahead of time and not just start saying no during the holidays.
Now, it is December, so this is technically the holiday period, but I challenge you to start saying no now. It's going to not only make you feel really positive and empowered, but if you have children, it's going to teach them some insanely valuable skills that maybe you were not taught by demonstration as a child yourself.
Now, lastly, this is so, so, so important. You need underlined, bold, italicized, everything. You need to make a list of coping mechanisms that you can implement. Now, I have a lot of anger, which is not great, I'm aware. But when someone goes against my boundaries, it's not so much that I just sit there and take it. I get mouthy AF because I just can't believe that someone would disrespect me like that.
[00:14:55] We're all a work in progress. I'm not saying that I'm amazing, but I am saying that I'm aware of this.
So, what are some coping mechanisms that help me get rid of anger that could come up? I do really encourage exercise, but I do know that a lot of people might not have the ability to exercise in this current time, because of everything that's going on, or potentially unrelated, to the pandemic.
What's something that you can do that has worked in the past to help you minimize your anger?
Now, there's a lot of other coping mechanisms when you’re learning how to set boundaries. And you don't necessarily need to implement them all before, but having a list so you can go to them is very important.
Here's a list of potential coping mechanisms. Please know they're not exhaustive and that you can take some out, add some of your own, and change up the structure of what I'm going to say. You could:
Take a hot bath, listen to music, have a friend that's designated to talk to you. If anything goes awry, rip up phone books, punch a pillow, talk to a therapist, lift weights, journal, or meditate. Do yoga, stretch, watch a movie. You get the idea. Simple things that will help you get through this really hard time.
[00:16:22] There's also lists of negative coping mechanisms, such as smoking, doing drugs, drinking, alcohol, gossiping, things like that. I don't advocate for implementing negative coping mechanisms. But if you are someone that ends up defaulting to that because the stress is just too much, these are my words of advice for you.
Be easy on yourself. This is a hard time. I can't even imagine what it's like to be living in some areas of the United States in Europe right now with the lockdown that's going on. And all that I encourage you to do for this year is just get through it.
It’s all well and good for me to say, “Here's a list and a step-by-step opportunity for you to take in order to make sure that you're not triggered.”
But I recognize that's not always the case. Even if you implement everything, I say it might not be enough for you. So, if you do default to negative coping mechanisms, be easy on yourself. The only thing I will say is if these turn dangerous, please reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist.
[00:17:39] And if you don't have anyone. Please know there are crisis lines and websites like Seven Cups that you can speak to random strangers on the internet. Now, granted, it's not that regulated, Seven Cups, but the crisis lines are. Even though it isn’t regulated, Seven Cups is something.
I hope this episode was helpful and that you can take some of my suggestions to help you get through this insane Christmas 2020 season.
I'm so thankful that you've listened to this episode. I know that I'm struggling during this time. If you are struggling and you don't have anyone to reach out to, I'm always just a text available. You can find me on Instagram at TheEmpathyFront. Or you can find me at Lost In The Bathroom; yes, I know, the username is strange. (Updated 2/02/21: The username is now Amy.Demone).
I promise you that I will respond as soon as I can because I know what it’s like to be alone. And I know what it feels like to have a random stranger help me through some of the hardest times of my life.
I want to wish each and every single one of you a very happy holiday regardless of your faith. I hope that you make it to next year. Because, wow, this one is one year for the books, and I can't wait to read what the textbooks say in 2050.