How to Stick to Your Boundaries This Holiday Season


Ah, the holidays. Love them, hate them, duck out of them because of “work” or “weather” or “flights”—they’re here. And with them come boundary smashing! 

Do your holidays include some version of…

👉 The mom who can’t stop asking about babies or moving closer

👉 The dad who dominates every conversation 

👉 The uncle who gets blotto and makes off-color jokes

👉 The grandmother who helps herself to the food on everyone else’s plate

I work with my family, so boundaries—and the crossing of them—are present all of the time. But for others, especially those of you who are at an arm’s length from family until the holiday season hits, setting boundaries with family might be new. So, here’s some insight into using your boundaries to keep the holiday peace. 


Why Do People Break Boundaries?

  1. They don’t know what boundaries are
    Some people are taught to establish boundaries early in life. Others have never explored what their own boundaries are.
  2. They don’t know what your boundaries are
    If your loved ones don’t know what your boundaries are, how can they possibly know when they cross them?
  3. They aren’t thinking about your boundaries when they x, y, z
  4. They intentionally don’t respect others’ boundaries

This is a small group of people, but they do exist. Steer clear. 


How Do I Know What My Boundaries Are?

Boundaries establish how other people interact with you, what you’re willing to do for them and how far they can push you. Think of boundaries as invisible lines around your emotions, your values, your actions and your desires. 

You identify them by knowing your core values. When you know your core values, it’s much easier to tell when people are crossing your boundaries.

For example, if one of your core values is respect and your mom doesn’t stop asking when you’re going to give her grandkids even though you’ve asked her time and time again to leave you be, she’s crossing your boundary. 

If you fail to have strong boundaries or don’t enforce your boundaries, people can treat you however they feel like treating you. They can monopolize your time, convince you to do things that don’t sit well with you and they can put you in situations that are emotionally damaging for you. If you’ve ever felt as if people “run you over,” don’t pay attention to your needs/wants, or disregard your feelings, it’s time to check in with your boundaries. 


How Do I Tell People About My Boundaries?

  1. Be firm but kind
    Saying no or this doesn’t work for me can be hard for women because we don’t want to “be mean,” but there are a million ways to say what you need without aggression.
  2. Set them early
    When people know what your boundaries are up front, they know the parameters they can work within. Too many times we fail to tell people what our boundaries are and then expect them to miraculously follow them.
  3. Say no and mean it
    If something feels like it’s crossing a boundary or moving into space and you don’t want it to, pass.


How Does Boundary Breaking Happen?

Even if you need a little clarity around your own boundaries, chances are, you know when they’ve been crossed. Travel to a past holiday event and consider some of the things that were said, done, or insinuated that make you bristle. They may have included: 

  • Off-colored jokes
  • Beating a dead horse about your life (Why aren’t you doing this? When will you do that?)
  • Public humiliation (families can be good at this) 
  • Epic guilt trips about YOUR decisions
  • Public drunkenness 

Whatever makes you bristle, listen to it—that’s a crossed boundary and when we’re around people who have known us for a LONG time, they know how to push our buttons and bring a lot of their shit to the table and that can lead to a boundary crushing event. 


What Should I Do When Someone Breaks My Boundaries?

  1. Remind them of your boundary
    Obviously you can only do this if you've clearly established this boundary with them before. If you haven’t established it yet, this may be the time
  2. Be kind and clear
    Going in with fences up especially during a holiday event when tension may already be high, is no way to establish a boundary. Be kind—let them know, “I’m telling you about my boundaries because I want you in my life and this is what I need”—and be clear about what the boundary is
  3. Set a consequence
    Let the person know what you plan to do if this boundary is crossed. Maybe you spend less time with them. Maybe you take a break from them for a bit. Whatever the consequence, make sure that you stick to it
  4. Remain calm
    If mom, uncle, or dad get upset when you stick to your boundaries, keep calm. Take deep breaths, remember that it’s healthy to have boundaries and don’t react


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