Five Rules for the Holidays
The holiday season is officially upon us! Thanksgiving is in four days and December is only a week away. The holidays often greet us with the delectable aromas and flavors of pumpkin spice, peppermint, and gingerbread, feelings of excitement, and anticipation of chowing down on seasonal food. They also often greet us with increased stress and anxiety. We're pressured to buy gifts for people we don't want to, host dinners we don't have the time or energy for, spend money we don't have on plane tickets, and nearly get into all out brawls over the last parking spot at the mall.
For some, the holidays are a reminder that their familial relationships aren't ideal, and the thought of spending any time with family can seem unbearable. Familial relationships can be strained for a number of reasons- unprocessed feelings of resentment, high conflict, judgmental family members, lack of boundaries, too much distance, child-parent role reversals, trauma, abuse, and core beliefs of unworthiness just to name a few. Here are five rules for the holidays that apply to everyone regardless of the status of your relationship with your family:
1. You don't have to spend the holidays with your family
Whether you live 10 hours or 10 minutes away, you are not obligated to celebrate with your family. You get to choose with whom you celebrate.
2. You don’t have to engage in conversations you don’t want to
Conversation topics that may be intended to bait you in include politics, changes to your appearance, future romantic relationships, and future children. You know yourself and your family best, so you get to decide which conversations are safe and which ones are off limits.
3. You don’t owe anyone physical affection
You get to create boundaries regarding your body. Someone's relationship to you does not entitle them to touch you. Children also have this same right and are allowed to dictate who does and doesn't touch their body.
4. You don’t have to put up with negative comments directed at you
Much like with conversation topics, family members may make unnecessary remarks regarding your appearance, love life, or career. The holidays should be a time to feel warm and fuzzy and appreciate the people you're around. You do not have to put up with anyone's negative bullshit. If you think this will be difficult or impossible, please re-read rule #1.
5. You don’t have to celebrate at all.
Holidays aren’t always joyous, especially if you are in a season of grief. If you have recently experienced a death, job loss, relocation, falling out with a friend, or break-up you may not be in a head-space or a heart-space for celebrating. It's also important to acknowledge that some holidays are laced with intergenerational trauma and you or others in your community may not want to celebrate.
If the idea of setting boundaries with your family sounds scary or nerve-racking, here are some excellent tips on doing so.