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The benefits and challenges of boundaries during the holidays
Resources: For Family / Whānau, Youth Talk, Mental Health, Wellbeing
Setting boundaries is an important part of establishing our identity but it can be hard to keep them around family.
The benefits and challenges of boundaries during the holidays

Welcome to our Youth Talk Blog, a section dedicated to youth lived-experiences with mental health and wellbeing, with weekly blog posts from diverse young people’s perspectives. This is a positive, fun and resourceful space, showcasing young people thriving and connecting with healthful activities, resources and support. This post has been written by Anna, our Community Education intern, who is a 20-year-old psychology student.

The holidays are often associated with being surrounded by family and friends at social gatherings. However, for some of us, this can be a stressful experience. Returning home to see people you have not seen for a while can be particularly challenging. For example, when I come home from university for the holidays, I revert to old patterns when I am around family and have difficulty upholding boundaries with them. All the changes I made during the year developing boundaries that allow me to be more assertive or be true to my values can be hard to maintain all of a sudden. Especially with family, as they have known me my whole life bringing home these boundaries seems like a sudden change and can create uncomfortable or confrontational interactions. When I am home, I often let a boundary slip because I worry about other people's feelings, assuming they will be unreceptive or offended.

The truth is I do not know how the other person feels about my boundaries. I can only assume, and such assumptions can be unfair to the other person as it does not give them a chance to express themselves, and I shouldn't assume the worst of them. I only know how I feel when my boundaries are disregarded. So what I can do is check in with other people about my boundaries, acknowledging that if problems arise, they are due to the situation, not any particular person. I also try to keep in mind that the experience of the same situation can be different for  two people. Therefore, I am mindful of saying how I feel rather than stating my opinion as fact. One other important thing to note is that during the holidays, setting or maintaining boundaries will likely be with people with who you have a pre-existing relationship Acknowledging or incorporating shared history while affirming a boundary can demonstrate your consideration for everyone involved, building trust and respect. Setting a boundary can be an excellent opportunity to check in with others about their needs. 

I find it necessary to remind myself that boundaries are not selfish. At their core, boundaries are a way of preserving your energy, building up your self-esteem, establishing a sense of self and affirming your values and beliefs. At the same time, boundaries can limit stressful interactions and can reduce feeling worn down, stressed, irritated or anxious. I am excited to maintain my boundaries with the people I love these holidays because I am proud of my progress in becoming more aware of my limits and emotions. These conversations can be tricky, but they transform your boundaries into something that brings you closer together, more like a bridge and less like a wall, as you better understand one another.

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