Holidays & Culture

Practical Tips for New Moms to Set Boundaries During the Holidays

December 4, 2023

Author -

Claudia Sandino

Practical tips on setting healthy boundaries. From talking openly to planning ahead, whether you're a new parent or aiming for better family vibes, these tips are here to make this year's celebrations more enjoyable and stress-free.

The Holiday season is a magical time, but for new parents, it often comes with the challenge of balancing festive celebrations and the need to set boundaries, especially when welcoming a new baby into the family. Babies get sick easily because their immune systems are still learning the ropes after they're born. Even as they get a bit older, they're more likely to catch certain sicknesses, especially this respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that loves hanging out during holidays.

Also, smells can bug babies, like your sister's perfume or your in-laws' super-scented laundry soap might bother your baby's breathing or skin. And there's this sneaky thing called third-hand smoke, which is leftover tobacco smoke that sticks around in rooms and on clothes for a really long time. Not great for the little ones.

Holiday parties are fun for many families, especially when they meet the newest family member. Don't be scared to say what you need. The important thing is that you stick to your decisions, explain your rules clearly, and keep your little one safe, just like a caring parent does. Caring for the safety and well being of your child is something everyone can understand so do not be afraid to speak up.

Here are some good ways to set limits and keep things healthy when you're with family this holiday season:

Wear Your Baby

One of the most effective strategies I discovered early on was the practice of wearing my baby. Beyond the undeniable bonding experience, it served as a physical barrier, dissuading well-meaning but potentially intrusive gestures like passing the baby around. This not only ensured my baby's safety but also allowed me to actively engage in family festivities without compromise.

Prepare to Say "No"

Navigating requests to hold your baby gracefully yet firmly is an art. Having a prepared response, expressing gratitude for their enthusiasm while kindly declining due to health considerations, can help manage these situations without feeling pressured. This approach establishes clear expectations and reinforces your commitment to your baby's well-being.

Give a Heads-Up

Proactively communicating your boundaries before the event can significantly contribute to a smoother experience. Whether through a group message or email, address not only health-related concerns but also set expectations regarding photo-sharing or dietary choices. Providing clarity beforehand minimizes surprises and ensures everyone is aligned.

Embrace Awkward Interactions

Defending your boundaries may lead to awkward moments, but it's crucial to remember the "why" behind your decisions. Protecting your baby from potential harm, especially during the heightened awareness of the COVID-19 pandemic, justifies the need for germ-related concerns. Embrace these moments as opportunities to assert your priorities and ensure your baby's safety.

Delegate Advocacy

Consistently enforcing boundaries can be challenging, especially in the midst of a lively family gathering. Enlist the support of a trusted partner, sibling, or friend as your advocate. Having someone who shares your concerns and can diplomatically remind others of your boundaries strengthens your position and ensures that your wishes are respected.

Techniques to communicate boundaries

Be Open

Start the Conversation

Initiate an open and honest conversation with your family about the upcoming holiday plans. Share your thoughts on setting boundaries and listen to theirs as well.

Express Your Needs Clearly

Clearly communicate your needs and expectations during the holiday season. Whether it's about personal space, time for yourself, or specific preferences, make sure your family understands what matters to you.

Plan Ahead

Pre-Event Discussion

Before family gatherings, discuss your plans and expectations with key family members. This proactive approach can prevent last-minute misunderstandings and help everyone be on the same page.

Set Realistic Expectations

Be realistic about what you can handle during the holidays. Setting achievable expectations can reduce stress and make it easier to establish and maintain boundaries.

Establish Physical and Emotional Boundaries

Define Personal Space

Clearly communicate your need for personal space. Whether it's having your own room or a designated area, setting physical boundaries can provide a sense of comfort.

Emotional Boundaries

Let your family know if there are specific topics or discussions that make you uncomfortable. Establishing emotional boundaries is just as important as physical ones.

Be Assertive Yet Respectful

Use "I" Statements

When expressing your boundaries, use "I" statements to convey your needs without sounding confrontational. For example, say, "I would appreciate some quiet time" rather than making it sound like a demand.

Stay Calm and Firm

If your boundaries are challenged, stay calm but firm in your stance. Remind your family that everyone has different needs, and this is about creating a positive and comfortable environment for all.

Offer Alternatives

Suggest Compromises

If certain requests or traditions clash with your boundaries, offer compromises or alternatives. Finding middle ground can help balance everyone's desires and make the holiday experience enjoyable for all.

Be Open to Discussion

Keep the conversation open and be willing to discuss and adjust boundaries based on the collective needs of the family.

Take Breaks When Needed

Plan Timeout Moments

Acknowledge that holiday gatherings can get overwhelming. Plan moments for yourself to recharge, whether it's a short walk, a quiet corner, or even a brief nap. Taking breaks is a healthy way to maintain your well-being.

Communicate Breaks Positively

Let your family know that taking breaks isn't about avoiding them but rather about ensuring you can be fully present and engaged when you return.

Create Exit Strategies

Have a Signal or Phrase

Develop a subtle signal or phrase with your partner or a close family member to indicate when you need a break or want to leave. Having an exit strategy in place allows you to navigate social situations comfortably.

Be Honest and Polite

If you need to excuse yourself, do so with honesty and politeness. For example, mention that the baby needs feeding or changing, providing a valid reason for stepping away.

Reflect and Communicate Post-Event

Reflect on Boundaries

After the holidays, take some time to reflect on how well your boundaries were respected and if any adjustments are needed for the future.

Express Gratitude

If your family respected your boundaries, express gratitude and appreciation for their understanding. Positive reinforcement encourages continued respect for your needs.

Encourage Shared Responsibility

Delegate Tasks

Share responsibilities for holiday preparations, meals, and cleanup. Distributing tasks encourages a sense of shared responsibility and prevents one person from feeling overwhelmed.

Create a Supportive Environment

Foster an environment where everyone is aware of each other's needs and is supportive in helping each other maintain healthy boundaries.

Lead by Example

Model Healthy Boundaries

Demonstrate healthy boundary-setting not only for yourself but also for others in the family. By leading by example, you contribute to a culture of mutual respect and consideration.

Encourage Others

Encourage family members to express their own boundaries and needs. Creating a space for open communication benefits everyone and enhances the overall holiday experience.

Remember, the key to successful boundary-setting during the holidays is fostering a culture of open communication, empathy, and collaborative decision-making within the family unit.

Thanks to COVID-19, we're all used to being careful about getting sick

It's totally normal to worry about germs, especially with RSV and the flu going around. These are good reasons to be careful around babies and people with weaker immune systems.

If someone doesn't take your concern seriously or disagrees with you, just tell them it's your job to keep your baby safe, and that's exactly what you're doing. Then, move on. There are other people to hang out with who won't be too clingy with your child. If you need a quick break, say you have to feed or change your baby. Use this time alone to relax and gather your thoughts before going back to the party. And don't forget, you need to take care of yourself too.

Holiday gatherings are exciting for new parents and our families, but they also present unique challenges. As your family grows, openly communicate how your boundaries have evolved and express the support you need during this special phase of parenthood. Standing firm, setting clear boundaries, and safeguarding your little one are essential aspects of responsible parenting. Ultimately, creating a safe and enjoyable environment for your family is the true essence of holiday celebrations.

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