Setting Boundaries With Difficult Family Members

Difficult family members can be, well, difficult! So to avoid stressful or awkward family time this holiday season (or any time of the year), we have put together some pointers for setting boundaries with difficult family members.

Put Your Own Needs First

Establishing boundaries can be challenging when you feel you will hurt those you care about. But when dealing with difficult family members, taking your own needs into consideration first will help establish boundaries. After all, it’s impossible to take care of other people if you don’t take care of yourself.

Value Your Time, and Ask Others to Do the Same

Sometimes family members unknowingly (or knowingly) monopolize the time of others, which is why it’s important to set firm boundaries with your time. For example, make it clear that you need to leave a family gathering at a certain time and stick to your deadline. If family members don’t value your time, you don’t owe them an explanation other than you have other priorities and obligations.

Seek Out Those Who Value You

Whether it’s a family member or a close friend, seek out the people who do value you and have them help you set healthy boundaries.

Be Kind But Direct

As you work your way through setting boundaries, it’s important that you’re equal parts direct and kind: Your delivery should be full of confidence but never callous. As silly as it sounds, you may want to rehearse what you want to say in the mirror before you present boundaries to a family member.

Be Realistic

Unfortunately, some people will never change, which means a weeklong vacation with a difficult family member may be out of the question. Setting realistic boundaries entails understanding that a toxic family member is not likely to change their behavior and considering what your well-being can handle. Accept that they are the way they are and respectfully leave before your emotions are compromised.

Say ‘No’ to Family Gossip

Gossip can lead to conflict and resentment. So regardless of how badly you want the tea, it’s best to ignore the family gossip and keep yourself out of those situations.

Walk the Walk

If someone is being toxic or critical of you, it’s tempting to want to defend yourself. But oftentimes, these difficult family members know exactly what buttons to push. So when this starts to happen, you have every right to remove yourself from the situation.

Learn the Power of ‘No’

Saying no can be liberating. But it can be the hardest part of setting boundaries if you tend to be a people pleaser. When you say yes when you want to say no, it can impact your self-esteem and self-respect. So say no with the expectation that your family will respect this boundary.

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