How To Have Hard Conversations Over The Holiday

One discussion can lead to so many breakthroughs

The holiday season has arrived and though it’s a time for reuniting with family, it can also be a moment of transparency with your loved ones.

At first, moving out of your hometown for college seems daunting. Then, soon enough, so much self-discovery takes place that you’re grateful for the experience. It allows you to see the world differently. 

You realize that the norms in your household, and community aren’t the norm everywhere else. There’s an awakening to new perspectives and ideals because of the exposure to different people and cultures you’re forced to cohabitate with and befriend. 

Depending on your chosen courses, you’ll also think more profoundly about the world. Seeing yourself molded into a new person is rewarding, but the process is not all sunshine and rainbows. You discover how harmful old spaces are when in a new one. College students have taken to TikTok to discuss how they’re healing from childhood trauma they didn’t know they had. 

It forces you to face the spaces and people that traumatized you head-on. Though a bit distressing, there is a benefit to doing so. 

“It is critical to address trauma because it impacts one’s ability to establish and maintain emotional well-being and boundaries,” says licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Teaching Assistant Professor of Counselor Education at East Carolina University Dr. Shanita Brown. “Addressing trauma is a core foundation for setting boundaries.” The B-word is not a curse, but it might as well be. Confronting the people and spaces that contributed to your pain can be awkward, but it’s a step in the right direction. 

Since everyone is home for the holidays, it creates an opportunity to have those tough conversations in which you’ll set boundaries. Brown listed six ways to approach them:

1. Select a suitable time and private setting for the conversation. Avoid public places or when both people appear rushed, stressed or distracted.

2. Create a bullet list of three points you want to discuss and stick to them.

3. Be aware of triggers and emotional regulation tools in case you are triggered during the conversation.

4. Have a time limit for the conversation. Set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Utilize “I” statements to express your feelings and perspectives. This helps the other person feel less attacked and promotes open communication.

6. Focus on solutions. Collaborate on ways to address the presenting concerns. 

Having difficult conversations is something you should be proud of. Expressing your feelings takes intentionality and boldness, especially when you don’t know how the receiving party will react. Reward yourself for your courage!

Now that you set boundaries, know it’s half the battle; it’s crucial to enforce them. By doing so, you “maintain emotional well-being, establish positive behaviors, resilience and confidence,” Brown says. For that reason, she listed three ways to follow through.

1. Check in with yourself to assess feelings and comfort levels. Self-awareness allows you to adjust boundaries and ensure they align with your well-being. That also will enable room to refresh or revise boundaries.

2. Remember why you created boundaries. Remember why you are saying YES to your emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.

3. Connect with your community. Build a supportive network of friends, family, and colleagues who understand and respect boundaries. People who encourage your commitment to self-care can provide additional strength and validation.

The path toward healing is heavy and unpredictable, but once you start to see the fruits of your labor, you’ll be glad you started the journey. One discussion can lead to so many breakthroughs. What’s a better holiday gift to yourself than self-care?

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