Let’s be honest, everyone’s family situation varies. Therefore, what Christmas looks like to each of us is also different, which is why it's very important to remember that there’s no such thing as 'normal'.
Words by YK Daily's resident life coach Amira Mansour @the_communicationexpert
Whether you’re parents are around, or you grew up with other parental figures, you dread Christmas, you can’t wait to stay in your pj's all day, or you’re splitting your time between two homes (or more), it can bring a whole wave of emotions, people pleasing tendencies and a sour taste of resentment. And whilst it’s no surprise that I think communication is key, particularly at this time of year, if you aren’t clear on your boundaries you’ll find yourself exhausted from meeting everyone else’s expectations, backhanded comments and passive aggressive digs to last you into the New Year.
So let’s start with some basics…
You’ve heard me say it before, but I’m going to say it again. Communicating in whatever way, shape or form always starts with you first. So before you fall into victim mentality, you’ve got to figure out what you want from a situation. What are your physical, emotional and spiritual needs? However, avoid falling into the trap of only thinking about your needs, and expecting everyone else to mind read what you desire, or even feel the same way. It’s ok if you have different needs to your family and friends, sometimes it’s just about compromising and understanding each other. For example, it's ok to spend Christmas separately, or to stop buying into the idea of what you "should" do, and instead, do what you want to do.
I truly get it. I do. The idea of voicing what’s important to you, isn’t always an easy feat. It’s the unspoken expectations of giving that can leave you in this trap of meeting what everybody else needs, except yourself. Creating boundaries is a great way to combat this feeling, and changing your role within your family or friendship groups is one step you could take. This may not be something everyone is ready for, including you, but it also doesn’t mean you should stay quiet and not express how you’re feeling, or what’s important to you.
One of the key questions my clients ask is, “what if they don’t like my boundary? What do I say then?”. Let’s start by reframing the way you’re looking at this question, because there is a very real chance that the person on the receiving end won’t like it, or will find it difficult to adjust. However, you cannot change someone else’s response, or behaviour, and it’s also not your responsibility to do so, but, you are in control of how you communicate back.
There are two things I find that truly help in this situation; one, adjust your expectations, and two, acknowledge how the other person feels. Approach this situation with the expectation that they may feel as though they’re not a priority to you, or upset that you’re not staying at their house over Christmas, or make you feel guilty for having this boundary. This helps how you’ll approach the conversation.
Next acknowledge how your boundary appears to make the recipient feel. Our basic human need is to feel heard and seen, shows that your relationship is important, and approach these conversations from a place of love.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you’ll still find yourself in situations with certain people where you are not their biggest fan, and the good news is, you don’t have to be.
However, it can be easy to go into a situation thinking, and waiting, for a negative outcome, and that may become the case, however, try and give them the benefit of the doubt, and remember, you don’t need to be best friends forever, but you can still be polite, and at certain times of the year, like Christmas, it goes a long way.
If you find yourself in conversations that make you uncomfortable, you can say so. You don’t need to sit through awkward moments. If you’re at someone else’s house, or in their environment you may find this slightly harder than if you’re in your own home, but you can still say something. Try, “I’d prefer not to talk about it/that” or “I don’t think this is a great time for us to talk about this, as we haven’t been able to resolve this in the past”. Acknowledge that if this situation or conversation isn’t healthy for you, you can choose to leave, or say no. It’s your energy so honour it!
This can all feel A LOT, and finding the words to actually express yourself, especially with loved ones, is often the part my clients find the hardest. So I’m sharing some phrases to help you communicate your boundaries this holiday season:
“I feel that splitting the day across two households means I don’t get quality time to spend with the kids at home, and I need time with them this year”.
“I feel overwhelmed when we’re hosting because the prep starts a couple of days before. I would be grateful if you could help me with the clean up, so it doesn’t feel like so much pressure”.
“I’m not comfortable with the comments you make about my weight, and I don’t want to continue this conversation”.
“This conversation feels controversial for me, and it creates tension between everyone at the table. Let’s talk about something else”.
Remember, people aren’t mind readers, so don’t expect them to know how you feel. Expressing your needs doesn’t make you selfish, it’s how you show up for yourself, take care of yourself, respect yourself and still show compassion.
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