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Let’s Talk: Setting Boundaries During the Holidays

Do you get stressed from traveling during the holidays, going to multiple family events, or hosting the family? This is a great year to break those overwhelming traditions and set up some boundaries.

This holiday season is going to be full of changes which is a great time for you to also make some changes for yourself and set some boundaries with your family.


Boundaries are not bad or selfish, in fact, they can be empowering and help create more authentic connections with those who respect your boundaries. Brene Brown says “Boundaries are simply what's okay and what's not okay.”

5 Tips to Setting Boundaries

Plan Ahead

It is important to make a plan to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to communicate this plan with others so there are clear expectations. Think about what you want to do or discuss with your partner what you as a family are going to do. Are you going to travel to visit family or do a virtual family dinner this year? What events in the community are you going to participate in?


Make a list or write everything on a calendar so you can clearly see what you are committing to. Try setting aside time for anything extra that might come up so you are not overwhelmed at the last minute.

Say No

If going to a family event or even an online dinner feels too stressful, just say no. Make plans that bring you joy. If you don’t want to host or don’t want to cook the holiday meals, say no. If you are asked at the last minute to help with your child’s school, you can say no.


You can say no and suggest alternatives. You can see your parents for dinner another night, suggest a potluck for dinner, or tell people you don’t have time to volunteer.


Off Limit Topics

If there is something that you are not comfortable talking about letting your family know. Have a phrase in mind that you can just say to anyone who still tries to engage in that topic and ask them about themselves or their family. “Thank you for being interested, but I don’t want to talk about that. How is Joey managing school this year?”

Practice Self Care

Self-Care includes doing something for yourself and giving yourself permission to set limits and to say no. Make sure to plan something that is stress-relieving after an event you know is going to give you stress. Check-in with yourself throughout the holidays or an event. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling? What do I need?” Plan some alone time, watch your favorite movie, or take a bath.

Utilize Your Support System

Is there someone in your family that is supportive you can go to if you feel overwhelmed? If you know a family event is going to be stressful, plan to talk with a friend or someone from your support system after. Schedule a therapy session the next day. You can always call or text a crisis number.

It is not always easy to set boundaries with family, but it is important. Setting a few boundaries will help you feel more relaxed and enjoy the holidays. Be clear with what you need from others and what you don’t need. Know your triggers and have a plan to help you stay calm, cool and collected.



Monica McNeeley is a licensed therapist, LCSW, provides online therapy in the state of California. She has been providing therapy services since 2011.



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