How to Establish and Maintain Boundaries with Family and Friends During the Holidays

Source: Photo by Dima Pechurin on Unsplash

Setting and maintaining boundaries with family and friends starts with asking yourself what you want your boundaries to look like. It can be difficult to differentiate between what you truly want and need versus what you feel you should do. This is further muddied by the expectations that come with the holidays. The pressure to see family and friends can feel heavy, so reflecting ahead of time about who you want to see and when can be helpful. When thinking about engaging with family and friends this holiday season, ask yourself these questions:

Will seeing this person be helpful or harmful to my wellbeing?
Is this person a stressor or a blesser?
Why do I feel the need to see them?
How long can I handle seeing them?
What will our time together entail?

Once you determine your boundaries, you’ll be better able to communicate them. This may feel like the hardest part. One skill to better prepare yourself to communicate with confidence is DEARMAN. DEARMAN is a Dialectical Behavior Therapy tool that centers effective interpersonal communication and aims to help you get your needs met. Each letter stands for a different step. The steps are:

Describe the facts that led to your decision.
Express your feelings.
Assert yourself by asking for what you want and need, or by saying no.
Reinforce your message by sharing the benefits of setting your boundaries.
Mindfully keep the focus on your needs, not allowing distractions or defensiveness from the listener to sidetrack you.
Appear confident, or in other words, fake it until you make it.
Negotiate, if necessary, by asking for alternate solutions, but remember – don’t alter your boundaries beyond what you feel comfortable with.

For a more in-depth exploration of how to use DEARMAN, check out our previous webzine on it here. We recognize that while setting boundaries will be better for your health and wellbeing in the long-term, doing so may feel uncomfortable in the short-term. To help manage this, try creating a list of self-soothing activities to engage in when discomfort arises. This may include going for a walk, reading a good book, or simply drinking a glass of water. No matter what someone says, remember that in order to be able to take care of those you love, you must first take care of yourself.