This week, my trainer was sharing that she didn’t want to go home for Christmas this year. She had just been home and was concerned about being at a large family gathering given the pandemic. Let’s face it. It’s hard for mom and dad to acknowledge their kid is growing up and creating a life of his or her own.
Healthy boundaries and language around it are always helpful to have in your back pocket. So, when telling mom or your favorite aunt you won’t be home for Thanksgiving/Christmas this year, here are some tips:
Be okay with the decision. I like to write things down. It helps me process. Make a list of the reasons you are not going. My trainer has a young daughter. Gathering in large groups and potentially catching the virus isn’t a risk she wants to take. She sees clients 6 days a week and gets so few days off. She would love to use the holiday to rest and recharge. Her daughter is a teenager. She will be off to college in 2 years. Could this be valuable time to spend with her and create their own traditions ? Not all family members are accepting of her decisions on single parenting. Does she want to spend time around folks who criticize her choices and put her down? Write down all the reasons. It’s helpful to be 100% clear when you share your plans.
Decide where and when to tell your family. We learned from speaker Rebecca Maxwell to consider where and when you will have the tough conversation. Where: On the phone? In person? When: Tell them early. It’s the respectful thing to do. Maybe it frees up your folks to go away instead! And when the disappointment sets in, because this is not the holiday they pictured, use language such as “I know, I’m sorry ” Or “I hear you.” Leave it at that. It’s hard. But you’re not a bad person for making decisions that serve you.
Be direct. Don’t hem and haw. One of my favorite phrases is “I have a rule….” Folks are hard pressed to argue with rules you made for yourself. Similarly, keep the language trained on “I decided”: “I wanted to talk to you about the holidays this year. I know we typically do X, but this year, I’ve decided to do Y instead.” When pushed for a reason: Again, keep the conversation trained on the “I.” “I love you so much, and I couldn’t live with myself if I got you sick.” or “I would rather stay home this year to ensure that we’re all around and healthy next year, and for the next several years.” It may also be the case, that between homeschooling and working, you’re just drained. It’s okay to admit you are stretched too thin and are not up for family gatherings this year.
Emphasize the positive. Try and keep the conversation trained on the positive. What’s positive about the choice you made? “I’m so excited to cook a turkey for the first time with my daughter. She found a new recipe online.”
Suggest an alternative plan. Suggest everyone put on their special pajamas at a certain time on Christmas morning and open presents together on Zoom for one hour. Hold a watch party. I love watching “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” or “Ziggy’s Gift” with others.
A good resource: Rachel Miller’s book The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your People.
A video to help anchor these skills: No is a complete sentence with Shonda Rhimes
A question to reflect on: What becomes possible when you establish boundaries?
Write me. Are you struggling to set boundaries this holiday? I would love to know.