While doing some holiday shopping with my daughters, we found a pretty funny little sign in a local shop.  In red glitter letters, it read, “hope spending time with your family for the holidays doesn’t undo all the progress you’ve made with your therapist”. We all had a good laugh (and yes, that sign made it home with me!) but seriously–family time can be the best or the worst. Sometimes it just depends on the minute.  

Family during the holidays

2020 may have us celebrating the holidays a bit differently this year, but I’m betting there will be just enough time on that FaceTime call to have Grandma ask you why you don’t have a boyfriend and for Uncle Jim to throw out some ridiculous political comment. Who else can make you feel the need to question all of your life decisions within a five minute conversation? Family. The usual suspects.  

While the holidays may keep you on your toes for lots of other reasons, here are some ideas to keep family time jolly.  

Healthy boundaries

Healthy boundaries build healthy relationships. Don’t be afraid to draw a line. You don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t have to jump up to do something because of someone’s passive aggressive comment. Because you care about your family members, putting into place boundaries will ensure the health of the relationship. Relationships that run unchecked can lead to burnout and resentment. I absolutely believe that creating and maintaining healthy boundaries is an act of love and will lead to more fulfilling, lasting relationships! 

Short answers and questions 

When faced with those really squirmy family situations–you know, the aunt who will stop at nothing until she gets all of the details of your painful divorce, the sister in law dishing out constant parenting advice–I like to remember the importance of retaining centered on your own ground. 

Don’t get drawn into the crazy making world they are inviting you to join; stay on solid ground. One of my favorite ways to do this is to keep your answers short and ask questions to redirect. If they just aren’t getting it, you may need to be more direct. “That’s not something I’m ready to talk about. But tell me about your new job! Grammy mentioned you got quite the promotion.”  

Ask yourself- “Why is this getting to me?”

If you begin to feel uncomfortable, try to examine what is behind those feelings. Is there some people-pleasing that you need to work on in the new year? Are you comfortable in your own skin, or is there a part of your life being examined by others that reveals some insecurities?  

While noting some of the sensitivities you’re experiencing isn’t the most awesome feeling, it can be insightful to reveal areas of life that may need additional attention or acceptance. 

Assume the best. Unless they are the worst.

Most of the time, it’s safe to assume the best motives from your loved ones. Meddling can often come from a misguided attempt to guide or be involved. However, when you have a family member who is a chronic offender, it is ok to recognize that and adjust your boundaries as needed.  

Whatever the holidays look like in your family this year, resolve to put into practice healthy relationship skills. It’s a gift that will keep on giving!