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holiday boundaries keep gatherings peaceful

Holiday boundaries are still needed even in this season of epidemic. It’s still with us even though the world is opening up. Are you still getting together for the holidays? Is Zoom your new way of connecting the family this year? Everything has changed since last year, yet family differences still exist and may even have worsened. You have bad memories from years past, and new ones from the last few months. Can you maintain detachment when traditions demand emotional and physical togetherness?

Hallmark cards may depict mom and dad and a couple of cherub-cheeked children warming themselves by a fire. Or sledding, shopping, baking cookies, visiting Santa or … any traditions that go along with the holidays.  But if you have a toxic or dysfunctional family, these images put pressure on you to pretend just because it’s the holidays.

When seasonal images of togetherness don’t match up with needed boundaries to limit toxic family interactions, then what? And what about those post election feelings when families have disagreed and your team didn’t win? You need some holiday boundaries to keep disagreements and family at bay. This year is a good opportunity to stay detached from loved ones who aren’t loving.

Holiday boundaries are needed because some emotions can’t be ignored

Aside from the Corona Virus losses and heated political differences, other feelings can’t be ignored. Trauma, grief, and addiction are feelings that can’t be neatly tucked away just because it’s the holidays. When a family member’s behavior requires detachment, we can still honor the traditions, separately with a good excuse this year.

Some family members are not safe to be around, accepting that reality works better than trying to force everyone to get together for the sake of the holiday,

Creating detachment from family members is no easy task. Vacillating, second guessing and giving more chances often sabotages even the most resolute among us. Add to that the pressures of holiday family gatherings and all the happy memories, and the boundaries that took so long to put in place begin to crumble like cookies.

Avoid the tradition of getting together and turning a blind eye

If turning a blind eye because of the holidays has been your tradition, that’s been your family’s choice with painful consequences. This year it serves no positive purpose to draw people together when there are resentments and potentially bad behavior. Family members can be honored and remembered in many ways throughout this season, even if you choose not to be together.

Holiday boundaries and honoring loved ones

  1. Make a place setting at the table for your loved one who is absent.
  2. Donate to a favorite charity in their honor.
  3. Support their choices from a distance and without voicing your opinion.
  4. Doing whatever it takes. Being present without directing sometimes means not being physically in their presence.
  5. Standing back and giving someone else the space to figure things out for themselves is a way of letting the other person know that you trust them. Trust is a big gift.
  6. Remember the way it used to be, but choose the way it is now. Choice doesn’t victimize – it empowers.

When we empower others by leaning back with our support, instead of leaning in and being the director, we are gifting them with our respect and our unconditional love. And isn’t love the basis of family traditions, after all?

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Elizabeth Viszt
Elizabeth is a certified Educational Specialist and Success Coach. She has a BA, MS in biology with a concentration in ethology (animal behavior), is an EAGALA Equine Specialist in equine assisted learning and personal development, and has extensive personal leadership skills. She spent much of her career in education at the high school, college and correctional facility levels teaching biology & chemistry and acting in the capacity of a success coach. Elizabeth presents workshops and seminars which address communication issues as they manifest in personal relationships. She uses writing as both a creative and cathartic outlet, especially after losing both of her parents to cancer in 2015. She lives in upstate NY, on a farm that bears the name of her motto: Be Unreasonable! She's invested in empowering others in moving their pieces forward in the world.

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