🎁The Holidays Are Upon Us...
Unfortunately, all of our holiday family get-togethers don't always resemble a Norman Rockwell painting. Some of them are more like a screenshot from a Stephen King remake.
Yes, family can be triggering, the holidays can be stressful, and being cooped up together in one place can feel a bit like being in a pressure cooker that everyone may not make it out of alive. Trust me. I KNOW.
But fear not! Because Santa 🎅 is making his rounds early this season and is giving you your present now...
It's the Home for the Holidays Family Survival Guide! Trust me, this is the gift that keeps giving the whole year round!
What is it about family that seems to bring out the worst in us(and them!) I read a quote once that said family activates all of our triggers because they are the ones that put them there! Makes sense to me. So as you head over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house, take note of these 5 Tips for Surviving the Holiday with Family.
1. Make A Boundaries List
You are probably going to hear the "B" word a lot this holiday season. No, not that "B" word"(although probably that one too) the other one-- BOUNDARIES.
The key to surviving the holiday with family is knowing what you are okay with and what you genuinely aren't. Then make a list, and don't forget to check it twice. Sometimes we enter the family home with the best-laid plans and intentions, but they all go right out the window when an extra helping of guilt is layered on or when someone makes an offhand comment.
Well, that is what the list is for! To help keep you on track and holding strong.
I mean, you don't have to go in charging your boundaries like an electric fence, but they should be nice and firm. Sure, a few compromises will be made, for example, you might have to take a few more holiday pictures than you want, but someone being invasive and intrusive? That's a no. Someone questioning your life choices, mocking you, or causing you discomfort or pain? That's going to be a no.
But They Are Family....
It doesn't matter that they are family, it doesn't matter that they've known you since you were in diapers. As an adult, you get to decide who has access to you and in what ways. You have a power now that you didn't when you were in diapers. You have the power to say NO.
The boundaries list will help you do just that. I like to add in a few key phrases for changing the subject, politely(but firmly) declining to answer a question, or what to say if someone persists.
The Three Strike Rule here is PURE Gold. More on that below.
2. Have Exit Strategies
The Three Strike Rule in boundaries is actually quite simple. Just as in baseball, the third time a boundary is breached then that person is out, or you are, as in you are hanging up, walking away, or leaving.
A Boundary Has Been Breached
Strike 1: Clearly state the boundary "I am not comfortable talking about my romantic life. Let's/How About/We Should talk about something else."
Strike 2: "I have already said I am not comfortable talking about this. If you continue I'm going to end the conversation and walk away."
Strike 3: Do it.
The third strike in boundary-breaking is an action. Sometimes unfortunately that means an exit. From the conversation, the room, or even from the gathering itself. Yes, sometimes the boundary breach is so blatant, cruel, or intentional that it is best to just leave the gathering altogether. So ensuring you have an exit strategy is sometimes key.
That can look like taking your own car, mentioning a pre-set time you might have to leave by, or having a friend or other family member on standby just in case you need to make a quick exit.
That way even if you don't have to use it, you will know it is there. You aren't trapped, you have a choice, and sometimes even knowing that you have that option, can ease some of the stress.
Pro Tip: With boundary setting you are literally teaching people how to treat you. So being consistent is key. If you say you are going to walk away from a conversation or even leave the event due to boundary breaches, make sure to follow through.
P.S. Need some help with phrasing? Check out these 50 Family Friendly Boundary Scripts.
3. Have Release Buttons
Some family interactions may not be all the way up to the level of abusive but they can certainly be...ANNOYING. Perhaps your mother's "gentle" nagging, Aunt Thelma's probing questions, or Uncle Alfred's odd political beliefs aren't at the level that you need to leave the entire event, but you could use a breather. If you find yourself being triggered, find the release buttons.
For you that could be taking a walk, taking some quiet time alone in the afternoon or early morning, breathwork, doing meditations, listening to music, or talking on the phone to friends. There can be a variety of tips and tricks for helping you de-escalate from the holiday mania. Find the ones that work best for you!
4. Limit Their Access
Let me tell you, speaking as someone who comes from a family who liked to use seemingly harmless information as later ammunition-Keep it Brief. If information is ammo then cut off their supply my friends. The less they know...the better. If you don't want to talk about your dating life--you don't have to! Finances? Nah. Health matters? Absolutely not. Your reproductive desires(or lack thereof)? Not a chance.
Just because they are family does not mean they get an all-access pass to you or your life.
They do not get to know every detail of your life, especially if they have a tendency to use it as fodder for the family gossip mill, or as a weapon against you. Why answer someone if you know they are just using it as an opportunity to attack you? Or start an argument? Pass, pass, and more pass. Change the subject, pivot to another topic, or just say "I'm not open to/interested in discussing that with anyone." If they don't like it... TOUGH.
I know it can be uncomfortable to tell someone who used to change your diapers or who you literally shared a body with for 9 months that something is not their concern, but that's the reality. We grow up and gain independence from our caregivers and even our immediate family.
We begin to choose the people who belong in our inner circle, and unfortunately, that does not always include family. As hard as that may be.
Remember, their access to you is a privilege, not a right, and one you can revoke at any time.
P.S. Sometimes this can include staying at a hotel or Airbnb instead of the family home. It can look like limiting conversation topics or having a pre-set time to leave by. These are all good ways to keep their access to you on a need-to-know basis.
5. Just Say No
Here's the thing. Between all the exit strategies, release buttons, mindset shifts, and dances around the Christmas tree there is another option. Choose not to go. Yes, really. You don't have to see your family for the holidays.
You don't have to see anyone if you don't want to. Some of my favorite Christmas' have been me, my pets, a giant mug of hot chocolate(extra marshmallows), and a Christmas movie marathon.
Yes, there might be guilt trips, begging, pleading, subtle or not-so-subtle reminders of things done for you in Christmas's past.
But at the end of the day, YOU are the priority. Your health, safety, emotional ,well-being and needs/desires matter, and if attending a holiday function puts those in jeopardy--it's not worth the price.
It really is better to plan a Friend-mas, a holiday trip, or solo time if that is what refills your cup and makes you feel joyful.
Joyful. Remember that feeling? If you are not finding it at your family holiday gathering, then it might be time to make different plans this year!
Yes, it's possible to have a happy holiday season, no mind-numbing, teeth-grinding, soul-sucking family function required.
Cheers To You!
To Sum It Up...
This holiday season can be the best one yet! With these 5 Tips for Surviving the Holidays, you too can breeze through a family function, no meltdowns required.
Or better yet--give yourself the gift of self-care this season and opt out of any hair-pulling family functions completely!