As the holiday season approaches, many of us look forward to spending quality time with our loved ones. But for neurodivergent people, family gatherings can sometimes be overwhelming and stressful. While we don’t have a monopoly over strained family relations, we do have a higher likelihood of experiencing neglect by our own caregivers. So, it is essential to prioritize our well-being and set boundaries to ensure a more enjoyable holiday season. In this blog post, I’ll explore three strategies for setting boundaries with family during the holidays.
Creating a Safe Space
One effective way to set boundaries with family during the holidays is by creating a safe space for yourself. This can be done by designating a quiet area where you can retreat to when you need a break from the noise and social interactions. If it’s safe to do so, communicate your need for this space with your family members explaining that it is essential for your well-being. By establishing this safe space, you can recharge and regulate your sensory input, reducing the chances of becoming overwhelmed.
Additionally, consider setting boundaries around physical contact if you have sensory sensitivities and may feel uncomfortable with certain types of touch. It is okay to kindly and assertively communicate your boundaries regarding physical contact, ensuring that your family members understand and respect your needs. Remember, setting boundaries is not selfish; it is an act of self-care and self-preservation.
Communicating Your Needs
Open and honest communication is crucial when setting boundaries with family during the holidays. It can be challenging for us to express our needs, but it is essential to advocate for ourselves. Start by identifying your specific needs or stressors and communicate them to your family members in a way that feels safe to do so. Let them know how these situations affect you and suggest alternative ways to navigate them.
For example, if large family gatherings make you anxious, consider proposing smaller, more intimate gatherings or suggest participating in activities that align with your interests and comfort level. By expressing your needs and offering alternatives, you are more likely to find a compromise that allows you to enjoy the holiday season while staying within your comfort zone.
Setting Clear Expectations
Another effective strategy for setting boundaries with family during the holidays is to set clear expectations. This involves discussing and agreeing upon certain guidelines or rules that everyone can follow. For instance, if punctuality is important to you, communicate the importance of timeliness to your family members, ensuring that they understand your need to adhere to a schedule.
Setting expectations also involves establishing boundaries around conversations. Family gatherings often involve discussions about various topics, some of which may be triggering or uncomfortable for neurodivergent individuals. It is perfectly acceptable to request that certain subjects be off-limits or to redirect the conversation when it becomes overwhelming. Remember, you have the right to protect your emotional well-being and engage in conversations that are enjoyable and meaningful to you.
Taking Care of Your Mental Health
In addition to setting boundaries, it is crucial to prioritize your mental health during the holiday season. Find activities that help you relax and recharge, whether it’s taking a walk outside, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in a hobby that brings you joy. Allow yourself time for self-care and self-reflection, as this can help you manage stress and maintain a resilient and flexible mindset.
It is also important to have a support system in place. Reach out to trusted friends or family members who understand and respect your boundaries. Make sure to communicate your needs to them as well, so they can provide the support you need during family gatherings. Having someone to talk to or lean on can make a significant difference in your overall well-being.
Your Perspective Is Valuable
While it may be challenging at times, remember that your neurodivergent perspective is valuable and should be celebrated. Embrace your strengths and talents, and don’t let anyone make you feel less than because of your differences. If none of these strategies feel safe to you, there’s always another option: surround yourself with people who appreciate and uplift you for who you are. Celebrate your unique contributions to the holiday season and take pride in being your authentic self.
Ultimately, the holiday season can be challenging for us. To prioritize your well-being, set boundaries by creating a safe space, communicating your needs, and setting clear expectations. Designate a quiet area for yourself, share your needs, and establish clear communication for everyone to be on the same page. Protect your emotional well-being by redirecting uncomfortable conversations and engaging in meaningful ones. By advocating for yourself, you can have a more enjoyable holiday experience.