The holidays are here which means a lot of us will launch into people-pleasing mode with our families while quietly raging inside. Well, CoViD is a solid reason/excuse to just avoid everyone OR this a perfect opportunity to put boundary-setting into practice. The best way to successfully follow through on your boundaries is to first get really clear on how you want the visit to go and let everyone know ahead of time what that looks like for you.
- All jokes aside, if you don’t feel comfortable getting together with people, family included, because of CoViD, DON’T. You may have bullies in your family and those bullies may be your parents or in-laws but they will continue to push you over if you continue to allow it. Let the pandemic be the reason you choose to advocate for yourself so that you can get a taste of what it feels like and then hopefully next time YOU are the reason you advocate for yourself.
- Get clear on what conversation topics or behaviors are off the table for you & let everyone know ahead of time. Now, I am all about having difficult conversations when both parties are willing to be open-minded, but if you know that isn’t exactly possible with certain family members be up-front about it. This doesn’t have to be a confrontational statement, it can be as simple as shooting a text out to say, “I’m looking forward to seeing everyone for the holiday and I know it will be a blast. This year I’m opting out of all conversations about the pandemic, politics, or religion because I love everyone and don’t want there to be any tense conversations if we have opposing views. See you then!”
- Decide how you will handle it if your boundary is violated and be prepared to follow through. I’m not saying if someone brings up one of your “off-topics” you need to grab your bag, and the kids and storm off, but if it is persistent be prepared to politely excuse yourself from conversations and, if necessary, the gathering. Have a conversation with the host ahead of time and tell them that if your “off-topics” can’t be avoided that you will gracefully and respectfully leave so that they aren’t offended and are prepared if you need to do so.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. Be understanding that some people will ask about things you don’t want to talk about simply because they are trying to connect with you and aren’t really sure what to ask. So often times we are quick to be offended when the other person has genuine intentions. My sister Lillie is 23 years old and everyone wants to know what her life plans are, people aren’t asking to shame her or be nosey they are just asking to make conversation and show interest. People ask me how my mother-in-law is and when I don’t feel like going into it I simply respond, “she’s hanging in there, tell me how’s it going with blah blah blah?”
- Pre-plan and rehearse some pivot statements so they roll off your tongue if you need to use one & be ready to change the subject! Examples include,
- “I don’t really want to talk about this, but I’m really enjoying our conversation, how is your latest project going?
- “It’s totally understandable that you feel that way but I feel differently, so let’s talk about something else. Did you watch the final season of Schitt’s Creek?”
- If you’re in a group convo and want out, easy peasy, excuse yourself. “Hey you guys keep chatting, I’m going to help mom in the kitchen.”
- Get excited about what you DO want to experience! Visualize hugging your mom and telling her you love her even though she can be negative. Think of your uncle’s laugh and asking him about his next fishing trip. Imagine sharing stories with your cousin about having slumber parties when you were a kid. Even if you have family members you aren’t that fond of think of one nice thing about them or that you can say to them, even if that thing is “I can’t stand my cousin but I’m sure glad he’s there for my grandma” and maybe even telling said cousin, “I’m sure glad grandma has you.”
I hope you all have an amazing Thanksgiving! Be safe, be CoViD cautious, and be kind. If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that you just never know when life will turn into a shit show and how precious our time is with one another, including our crazy families!