Before we head to the Thanksgiving dinner table, we may need to learn to how to set boundaries with family between politics, family drama and more. That’s why Danielle wanted to have The Boundaries Therapist on the podcast to help equip us with tools.
“Setting boundaries feels different but it should feel different because you’re protecting yourself.” – Cassandra Rowe
Cassandra Rowe is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and LPC Clinical Supervisor (LPC-S). She has worked as a Student Support Counselor (Crisis Counselor) and is the owner of Epiphany Counseling Services, LLC.
In this conversation, Danielle and Cassandra talk about how to set boundaries with family around politics and setting boundaries for Thanksgiving dinner.
Being Brave Enough to Know How to Set Boundaries with Family
When Cassandra and I first talked right before the highly charged 2020 election she told me, “Even though people around you are not practicing healthy boundaries… we still have the right and ability to practice those.”
She pointed to the 2020 election and how the candidates weren’t practicing healthy boundaries with each other – even bringing children into the conversation.
Even when we’re the only one setting boundaries in a world that seems like it’s not – Cassandra says “Boundaries keep us safe. They keep us physically safe and they keep us emotionally safe. So if there’s anything that makes you feel unsafe. It’s okay not to engage in it.”
Make Personal Rules as you are Setting Boundaries for Thanksgiving Dinner
Cassandra tells me about a rule she has – she doesn’t talk politics with someone she’s not in a relationship with. That means she doesn’t talk about it at work or on social media.
“I know that one of my boundaries is I don’t tolerate emotional abuse. I don’t tolerate intellectual abuse – that’s when people are putting you down for – if your belief is different than yours.”
Determine what rules you want in place based on the triggers you have.
“If you feel some kind of way about an interaction – there’s probably a boundary that’s violated. That’s worth exploring.”
‘People Don’t Have to Understand Your Boundaries, But They Do Have to Respect Them’
If you are feeling stress with an interaction with someone – that means you likely need a boundary.
Cassandra shares three steps on how to set boundaries with family. You can use these as you are setting boundaries for Thanksgiving dinner.
- Identify your boundaries
- Vocalize your boundaries
- Enforce your boundaries
Of course, the first step is the easiest. Second is a little harder, but a lot of times it’s the enforcing of the boundaries that makes us feel most uncomfortable.
“When we’re talking about boundaries, it’s usually awkward,” Cassandra explains because we are setting a boundary over something that has offended us.
For that, Cassandra offers this simple advice.
“No is a boundary.”
Create a Boundaries Plan When Setting Boundaries for Thanksgiving Dinner
Cassandra recommends going into a family dinner like Thanksgiving with a plan. That could mean developing a plan with a trusted family member like a sibling or partner.
You may create a buzz word and talk about “if this or this or this happens, I’m going to do this or this.”
Cassandra points out, “Family gatherings should be a time for us to just be and not do” she says as she emphasizes that whether its politics, family trauma or conflict – holidays are not the time to try to solve these kinds of issues.
She says, “I go into family gatherings with a list of things I already know I’m not going to talk about.”
If they come up, Cassandra uses her plan – aka escape plan – that she already created before the event as she was setting boundaries for Thanksgiving dinner.
“Escape Plan” Options
- Make a Store Run
- Play with the Kids
- Leave before the Drinking Starts
- Set a Time Boundary with certain people
- Change the subject
- Be Busy
- Deflect with Humor
For more information on any of these ideas, listen to the full episode here or on the player at the top of this article.
“A family gathering is not the time to solve world peace.”
Cassandra says using an ‘escape plan’ may be better than getting into it with family members about what offended you and why. She says you can bring up the offense at a later time.
It is okay to use whatever solution you need to to keep yourself emotionally safe as you are setting boundaries for Thanksgiving dinner.
More on this episode of this wellness podcast episode:
– How to take responsibility that everything is not yours to solve
– Have structured idle time so we can bond rather than have unwanted conversation
– Putting boundaries in place as you ingest political information (we recorded this during Election week of 2020, but tips apply year round)
– Giving yourself time to process information like election results