Setting Boundaries During the Holidays

image of two elf figures to symbolize setting boundaries during the holidaysBoundaries are difficult. Figuring out what your own wants, needs, and limits are can sometimes be hard enough. And then we must figure out a way to communicate our wants, needs and limits to someone else who may have a history of pushing them. Now add on top of that the stress, overwhelm, and sometimes chaotic nature of the holiday season, and it makes sense that this time of year is one of the hardest in terms of setting and maintaining boundaries.


If you have a family member, or loved one who is struggling with substance abuse, or additional mental health disorders that may be affecting the way that they show up- setting boundaries during the holidays is essential. Sometimes it can be difficult to hold space for the awareness of your loved one’s struggle with substance abuse, and the tendency for this season to be filled with liquid holiday cheer.


Here are some things to think about when you’re setting boundaries during the holidays with a loved one who may be struggling with substance use:


  1. Get clear on what your limits are. Do a deep dive into your own thoughts and feelings around spending time with this loved one and how you want it to look.
  2. Communicate those expectations ahead of time. Expectations are just that, expectations. And even by communicating them it doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee. It is important however, to communicate your expectations and boundaries ahead of time to allow the other person to adjust and think about the way that they want to show up.
  3. Be as flexible as possible, as things come up. It’s important for us to be firm in our boundaries, but not so rigid that we’re unable to shift or change when new information appears.
  4. Talk to them privately. If a boundary gets crossed at a family or holiday event, pull the person aside and talk to them personally and privately. There’s a better chance of having a helpful conversation when it’s just between the two of you.
  5. If all else fails, remove yourself. As much as family is important to a lot of people, we don’t necessarily have to continue to put ouerselves in a situation that feels harmful or uncomfortable just because it’s family.


We want the holidays to be merry and bright. We want it to be a time that’s filled of laughter, connection, and togetherness. Identifying and setting boundaries during the holidays ahead of time is the best chance of being able to have a memorable and meaningful experience with our loved ones.

If you or your loved one are ready for the gift of change, our non-12-step approach to addiction treatment can help. Don’t hesitate to reach out – you don’t have to do this alone.