How To Set Healthy Boundaries With Family During Holiday Gatherings

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…until you have holiday family drama.  Learning how to set healthy boundaries with family is a valuable skill to practice during the holiday season. Maybe you’re seeing relatives you don’t particularly get along with or have had disagreements with in the past. It’s all about setting healthy boundaries with family to avoid unnecessary tension at family holiday gatherings.

When it comes to dealing with holiday family drama, I recommend checking out the book, “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships” by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD (author) and Deepak Chopra (foreword). The concept of nonviolent communication (NVC) was developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg in the 60s and 70s. The main point is to find empathy in conversation. That way, both parties can seek harmony in the relationship.

Let’s dive deeper into nonviolent communication and how to set healthy boundaries with family using this technique. Here’s to happy and healthy relationships with family members this holiday season—even with those you can never seem to get along with!

Setting Healthy Boundaries with Family Using NVC

If you’re eager to keep the peace during the holidays, figure out how to set healthy boundaries with family using nonviolent communication. There are four steps and two parts to this concept. Here, we can take a closer look at the main components and how you can apply them at your family holiday gatherings.

Step 1: Observations

As you observe family members’ behavior during the holidays, always do so without judgment. You must learn to separate what you observe from your personal judgments to prevent defensive triggers. The goal here is to open up an exchange that leads to understanding.

For example, let’s say you’re at a family gathering, and someone shows up late. Instead of saying, “You’re always late. You can never be on time!” you could say, “I believe we agreed we were meeting at 2:30 pm; it’s now 4:30 pm.” You’re merely stating a fact instead of making unfair statements. But also letting them know that if their food is cold and everyone already ate, this is why.

Step 2: Feelings

Take responsibility for your feelings. Change your perspective on how someone else’s words and actions make you feel. You can choose how you react to what someone else might say to you. I like to practice mindfulness breathing exercises to calm myself in situations where I feel my emotions taking over.

For example, maybe you have one of those relatives who questions your love life at the family party. You might take it personally if they comment that you’re still single this year. Smile at them instead of feeling upset and say, “I haven’t found someone special enough that I want to share my life with yet.”

Step 3: Needs

This next step bridges the gap between feelings and unmet needs. Learn to look within yourself and understand what your needs are. If someone is doing or saying something that’s causing you anger or frustration, it’s crucial to communicate your needs effectively.

If you’re at a family gathering and someone brings up a touchy subject that’s triggering you to feel angry, or that you don’t want to discuss, be prepared to communicate your needs. You can use the phrase, “I want to enjoy dinner without discussing these topics,” to let others know what you need in that moment.

Step 4: Requests

When it comes time to make a request, it’s important to know that this is different from making a demand. In this case, you want to be specific and explain what would help you in this particular situation. The objective here is to build relationships based on honesty, empathy, and understanding—not make demands.

Use phrases like, “Would you be willing to…” and avoid using words like “should” or “must.” Let’s say you’re at the family dinner table this holiday, and someone is looking down at their phone, not listening to you. You could say, “Would you be willing to put your phone down for a moment so I can tell you this story?” This way, they have an opportunity to help you with your request, and you aren’t demanding they get off their phone.

Putting it All Together

The final piece of the nonviolent communication structure is putting it into action with this two-part structure:

  1. Using the four steps to express yourself honestly
  2. Being able to receive these same components with empathy

When you combine both parts, it all comes down to practicing your speaking and listening skills in each tricky situation you encounter. This approach will help you with setting healthy boundaries with family and navigating conflict during the holidays.

Enjoy Happy and Healthy Family Holiday Gatherings

It’s essential to master how to set healthy boundaries with family as you get together to celebrate the holidays. It can be a joyous but stressful time, so creating boundaries significantly affects how smoothly everything will go. Using nonviolent communication is one way to ensure you’re approaching challenging situations with the family members you have difficulty tolerating.

If you feel like you need to protect your peace, it’s okay to say “no” and turn down social invitations or commitments this holiday season. It’s impossible to please everyone, and you must live life on your own terms, even if it means eliminating some of your obligations. Don’t feel like you have to spend time with family members who don’t match your energy. You can’t choose your family, but you can decide how much of your time you spend with them, if at all.

This year, no matter how you choose to celebrate, say goodbye to holiday family drama and be open to embracing the healing power of letting go and moving on. Rid yourself of any residual negative energy between family members, and feel freed by this. Now, go enjoy the holidays how you want to, with healthy boundaries and communication in the new year! How will you be spending the holidays this year? Leave a comment below or connect with me on Instagram!

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