Guess what? Disney Christmas only exists in films.

If that’s a blinding glimpse of the obvious to you then you need to read no further but for those of us who struggle every year with the concept of what we’d really like to do and what we feel obliged to do, read on

This week, whilst chatting on the phone, one of my friends said to me “I just can’t do Christmas dinner for 17 people again this year” (!) She meant it. It’s too much. This year she simply has too much on but regardless there is an expectation that she will continue to ‘create magic’ for the family. Some of us seem to feel the pressure to either host or join in when in truth we’d really much rather be doing something else.


How can we manage boundaries at Christmas or any other time?

What is a boundary and why would we set them? What does a Christmas boundary sound like? and what should we think about when setting our boundaries?


What is a boundary?

One definition of a boundary is “The emotional and physical space needed in order to be the real you without pressure from others to be something that you’re not” (like a party person, or a perfect guest)


Some people feel guilty for setting boundaries but we shouldn’t

Establishing boundaries helps people to be clear about where they stand with you (and everyone likes to know where they stand) Boundaries are also a way of taking care of ourselves and we have a responsibility to look after ourselves. Setting boundaries might feel unfamiliar and awkward at first but it’s worth persevering with, practice makes perfect.  Honest and direct communication helps and in turn, we gain respect from others.


What does a Christmas boundary sound like?

·      No thank you, I won’t be joining you this time, but have fun!

·      Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do lunch for everyone this year, but perhaps another year. Would someone else like to volunteer this year? (It’s not your problem to fix)

·      Thank you, I can join you for a short while but I will need to leave at (X) o’clock.

·      Great, I would love to pop in and see you all, but I have another commitment later.

·      Yes, I’d love to join you but I won’t be staying all weekend as I also need to get some rest.


What should we think about when setting our boundaries?

We should communicate clearly when setting boundaries, clearly and assertively. Repeat your response if necessary, preferably in exactly the same words, to emphasise your decision. Be unemotional, you don’t have to explain yourself, or provide an excuse or an alternative solution for people, you just have to be clear and then make sure that you follow through. This part is really important, if you don’t follow through it will all be for nothing, act consistently when upholding your boundaries. If you want to allow for a more gradual change you might plant the seed this year that you will be doing something different next year, it makes it easier for everyone if they know what to expect.

Boundaries often arise from unhealthy beliefs, in the case of Christmas it might be something like

·      I have to hold the family together (Everyone has a responsibility to do this)

·      I can never say no to X (You always have a right to say ‘no’)

·      I would just feel too guilty if I did something on my own and left them to get on with it. (You have a right to do things that are just for you to avoid becoming over-enmeshed and to maintain your own identity)

·      Families should always spend Christmas together (Says who?)

Ask yourself where these unhealthy boundaries came from. When were they established and are they helpful or useful to you today? If not change them.

I wish you a happy, healthy, peaceful and boundaried Christmas.

Read more about Janette Kirk-Willis and her other articles HERE


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