Please enjoy this MercyBlog written by one of our Outreach staff members that’s all about boundaries during the holiday season!

I have a daughter who struggles with anxiety. She needs consistency to manage her emotions and responses well. Holiday gatherings require a certain amount of flexibility, and changes are inevitable when multiple people are involved. Sometimes, the most delightful seasonal activities can get pretty stressful. 

Over the years, we have all learned the importance of healthy boundaries to avoid meltdowns and protect everyone from stress during the holidays.  

Here are some of the ways we try to take care of ourselves and each other. 


We have all gotten better over time at communicating our individual needs. And when those needs are in conflict with one another, finding a way to compromise. For example, we establish a boundary of shared responsibility for meals, including clean up. That way no one feels resentful about doing all the work while others have fun. Everyone contributes as they are able. This requires communication.  

My daughter loves to prepare a specific dish for our holiday meal. But if she is overwhelmed, that can be a disaster. We don’t just “hope it will go better this year”. We make sure she has the support she needs to do the thing she loves. That means we talk about it.  It also means we make a contingency plan and extend grace for her to say no, even at the last minute. Communication helps us work together, maintain healthy boundaries, and avoid relational land mines. 

Right-size expectations

 When everyone lived at home, we had the entire holiday season to shop, look at Christmas lights, and perhaps enjoy a Christmas outing of some kind. We watched tons of Christmas movies, baked cookies together…all the things. Now the kids are adults, and some have families of their own. During the holidays we are together for three days at the most. Trying to cram all the fun holiday traditions into that amount of time just doesn’t work (we found this out the hard way). To tackle the lack of time, we make choices and develop a plan for things we would most enjoy during our time together. We communicate the plan to everyone ahead of time, and we try to stick with the plan. But if someone needs to draw a boundary and take time away from the larger group to decompress, we respect each other’s needs. 

We have boundaries around spending as well. In our family, we draw names so each sibling buys a gift for one other person and the kids go in together to buy a gift for mom and dad. For many years, the gifts were all homemade. Now there is a “suggested limit” on how much each person can spend. The point is, if Christmas becomes a financial burden on anyone in the family that can overshadow the joy. We have learned to talk about these kinds of issues and make a plan early so everyone has time to find or create a gift they enjoy giving. 

Be intentional about welcoming new family members

When children become adults and get married, the family dynamic changes. When a couple returns “home” for the holidays, the truth is, it’s only home to one of them. The other spouse may be struggling a bit to figure out how they fit in. Sometimes, especially early in a marriage, the spouse returning home to their parents may revert back to the ways they have always acted at home, allowing or expecting parents to take care of them. This can result in the other spouse feeling like an outsider and drive a wedge in the couple’s relationship. Extending a warm welcome may include making sure a new family member is in on the holiday planning. Healthy boundaries may also mean the couple has time with the family and some time alone together to process things. 

Focus on the main thing

Christmas is a celebration of God’s great love for the world, expressed in the gift of Jesus. So, we try to keep the main thing the main thing. Not everyone in our larger family shares the same opinions. We don’t all express faith the same way, but we try not to spend the holidays focused on differences. Sometimes we draw a boundary and declare a topic of conversation off limits so we can concentrate on what we have in common. Gratitude for what we have, love for each other. 

We all want to feel accepted and valued. Getting what you really want this Christmas is sure to involve speaking up and communicating what you need during the holidays, keeping expectations in check, and being sensitive to the situations of others, including newer family members.  

The holidays can generate some extra anxiety, but as we journey toward freedom in Christ it’s possible to plan, maintain healthy boundaries, and keep the stress to a minimum or at least manage it well.  

Mercy Multiplied exists to provide opportunities for all to experience God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and life-transforming power. We offer multiple programs and resources online and onsite designed to equip people to live free and stay free in Christ. For more information about the services we offer, click here.  

Want more resources? Check out our MercyTalk podcast episode, “Boundaries With our Parents as Adults”. For daily inspiration, follow us @MercyMultiplied on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.