Do the words “boundaries” and “holidays” make your cringe? Because, in your head, they equal confrontations and hurt feelings? Yeah. Me too. Holidays are great for making fun memories with your loved ones. But they also mean juggling where to spend your time with family. Whether you live in the same town as your parents and your husband’s parents, or you don’t live by any family, you still have the tough choice of how to spend the holidays — holiday boundaries can help.
Before kids, my husband and I switched Thanksgiving and Christmas every year with our families. Then, when I became a mom, it became very important to me to spend Christmas morning in our own home, creating our own memories and traditions. Thankfully, my husband felt the same way.
However, that meant that when our first Christmas as parents rolled around, we had to inform our families of our decision. It wasn’t easy and wasn’t the most well-received news. But everyone respected our decision. And sometimes? It means we don’t get to see some family members as much because they have decided on different boundaries for their family. And that’s ok if that’s what’s best for them!
I really wanted my kids to grow up with memories of waking up in their own beds on Christmas morning. The holidays are a magical time of year, but it can be hard work to make them magical. Here are a few tips I have for creating holiday boundaries:
Voice your decision—and stick with it.
Once we made the choice to spend Christmas in our own home, we didn’t waver. We had reasons that reaffirmed why that choice was important for us as a family. We’ve been doing this for six years now, and both of our families know what to expect from us during the holidays.
Balance your time.
Since we spend Christmas in our own home, that means every Thanksgiving is spent with my husband’s family. We are committed to making the tradition of spending Thanksgiving with them, and our kids already know that’s the way we do things. And it works for us.
Be open and honest.
Holidays can sometimes bring out the snarky in people. I’m a people-pleaser, so I don’t like to rock the boat. That can be tough if you live by the ‘honesty is the best policy’ rule. It’s hard telling a loved one that you won’t be spending the holiday with them, but it’s better to be kindly honest than to not address the issue.
Celebrate on a different date.
Since we stay home for Christmas, we celebrate Christmas with my husband’s family at Thanksgiving. If you’re going to stick to your guns on your holiday boundaries, you have to be willing to be flexible where you can. For us, that meant combining two holidays into one visit. Besides the fact that I need to have all my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving, this tradition has become a very sweet time for our family.
No means no.
Sometimes setting holiday boundaries means being firm with loved ones. There were years that I felt so guilty about not spending Thanksgiving with my mom. But I also knew that it was important for us to spend quality time with my husband’s family. So as hard as it was to tell her we’d be gone again for Thanksgiving, I wanted to make sure my kids created memories with both sides of their family.
Holidays and families are tricky—and sometimes a little messy. It’s hard telling someone you love that you won’t be with them on a special day. But it’s so important to set boundaries on the things that are important to you and your family. Plus, the holiday boundaries get easier and more accepted each year they’re enforced.