GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The holidays can be a joyous time, with family and traditions and lots of celebrating. But for many people, it can be a difficult season. All that togetherness and the focus on perfection can make it an unhappy time. It’s important to set boundaries and control expectations.
Valarie James and Kaley Fairbairn are therapists with Grand Rapids Specialty Therapy and they explained that boundaries are what we teach people about how they can treat us. They can be rigid, porous, or nonexistent.
James said, “They can change over time and circumstances and as therapists we hope to move folks toward healthier boundaries that aren’t driven by the need to overly self-protect or to develop boundaries that may be pretty much absent as we see in burned out people-pleasers.”
James and Fairbairn described some signs that our boundaries may need some attention and tuning up. You might feel burned out, or resent when others ask for assistance from you. Perhaps you’re unable to find time for your own self-care.
So how do we set limits on people we care about? A discussion with our loved ones about boundaries, especially during the holidays, seems daunting.
Here’s more advice from the experts:
- Get in touch with what you are actually wanting and needing at any given time.
- Communicate clearly what you are able and willing to do. Try to avoid passive aggressiveness or hinting.
- REMEMBER you do NOT have to overly explain or even justify your boundary.
- Expect that it might feel very difficult to set the boundary, particularly with family.
- Expect that you may have to set the boundary more than once in cases where folks have benefited from a lack of boundary. BE CONSISTENT.
- Practice healthy awareness of your personal boundaries and communicate them as often as possible.
- The kinds of boundary concerns you have are typically related to what was modeled for you in your family, early coping mechanisms, and learned behaviors that have developed through your life. A therapist can help you figure out not just where the behaviors came from but can also create a personalized plan to help you develop a plan that creates more peace in your life.
James and Fairbairn recommend Nedra Tawaab’s book, “Set Boundaries, Find Peace,” as a way to learn more.
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