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Hi there! I’m Christina, a mom of two littles, a licensed mental health therapist, and a children’s book author! Thanks for checking out my site. Look around! I’m sure there’s something here for you! This article is all about making magical memories this holiday season by setting boundaries!

Making Magical Memories during the Holidays by Setting Boundaries

With the holidays fast approaching, our brains skid into a not-so-merry tailspin of present planning and travel orchestration. And that’s before we have to consider all of the headaches and roundabouts caused by our unwanted ‘Uncle Covid’. Very few events carry the emotional weight of the holiday season, and this year’s is no exception. We can either concede to the typical engagements, dysfunctional family conflicts, unrealistic expectations of children, and sugary excess. Or, we can do something that maybe we’ve never done before — set boundaries!

Our annual attempts to manufacture a jolly occasion by avoiding conflict invariably lead to feelings of helplessness and resentment, which is not quite the recipe for a holiday dream come true. When planning for the holidays, boundary-setting should be at the top of our holiday-prep list, somewhere close to tinsel and turkey.

The ability to set boundaries is critical for demonstrating self-love, protecting yourself and your children, and having agency and control over your life experiences, including the holidays. Boundaries set a framework within which everyone can enjoy themselves and engage in a healthy way. And if lines are crossed and limits are pushed, upholding boundaries demonstrates strength of character as well as the importance of the boundary in the first place.

You can expressly set boundaries in several areas of holiday planning — how far you travel, where you stay, how long you visit, what you eat, how your children are treated, what topics are brought up and which are not, which gifts (if any) are appreciated, and the list goes on. 

It all begins with picturing your ideal holiday celebration. From there, you’ll determine what boundaries are needed, creating a structure or framework around your experience. And finally you will tell your family and friends of your boundaries, gifting them with clarity and honesty around what would work best for you and your kiddos.

I want to help by providing you with a recipe for a sumptuous holiday season, boundary style:

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Picture It, Frame It, Gift It

  1. Picture It:
    Be honest with yourself about what you and your nuclear family want out of the holidays
    Think about what your ideal holiday would look like. Who would be involved, where would you be, what you would do, and for how long? How can you create a holiday as close to your ideal as possible, even within the dynamic of extended family and the sense of obligation?
  2. Frame it:
    Create a framework or structure around your ideal holiday by determining what boundaries are needed
    You can set boundaries around time, geography, your and your children’s bodies, gifts, food — basically whatever element causes you discomfort. If you must spend time with family, think about how long is realistic for you to do so while still feeling good. Make decisions about whether you travel or not, and if you do, whether you stay with family or friends, or get a hotel room. Think about physical boundaries and whether you’re okay with hugs, kisses, and spending time indoors (especially in light of the pandemic). 

    Decide what are the boundaries you want to stand firm on and which ones are more flexible, and make sure you have agreement with your partner and children. Some compromise is often necessary in holiday planning — accommodating so many people and personalities is hard — but not at the expense of you, your family, and your feelings.
  3. Gift it:
    Calmly and clearly communicate your boundaries with others ahead of time
    Having visualized the holiday that feels the best to you, and having thought through the specific boundaries you would like to set, it’s the time to garnish this beautiful dish of holiday self-care by telling your family and friends of your boundaries, expectations, and consequences.

    For boundaries to be effective, they have to be spoken (or written) to those you are setting them with. Clearly and calmly state your boundaries ahead of time, giving your family and friends time to come around to the boundaries and giving yourself time to have to uphold them in advance if needed.

Note: This isn’t selfish! You’re benevolently gifting them with clarity and honesty around what would work best for you and your kiddos!

Kids can learn to set boundaries too! 

You can further spread the mazel by supporting your children in learning how to set boundaries. Open them up to the world of self-determination where they know they matter and that they can voice their wants and needs, through boundaries. 

You can aid in their development of this vital life-skill by educating them about boundaries and why they are so important. Help your children with picturing their ideal holiday, and equally importantly, what their comfort zones are and are not. You can advocate on behalf of your child to the larger family, or you can encourage your child to find their voice to stand up for themselves, or both. 

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No returns or exchanges

Now, buyer beware: your friends and families may push back against your boundaries.

They are especially likely to do so if there is not a practice in the family of boundary-setting. But don’t give up hope! Boundary-setting is not a set it and forget it situation; it’s a skill that you hone with lots of practice.

And believe it or not, I hope your family sets boundaries with you too. If everyone could identify their best holiday, and set the foundation to make that happen by gifting one another with their boundaries and expectations, then we all could have an active hand in our experiences, and finally have that magical family holiday memory we’ve always wanted.

So, get out there and start giving!

Christina Furnival

Christina is a mom to two wild and wonderful kiddos, a licensed psychotherapist (LPCC), the founder of her website and therapeutic motherhood blog Real Life Mama, and a children's book author of a social/emotional wellbeing series, Capable Kiddos! She and her Scottish husband are raising their family in San Diego, where they love to hike, play soccer, cook, walk around the lake, and go to the beach.

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