As we approach the holiday season, there is increasing pressure to attend social events. These can be with family, friends, co-workers, or other acquaintances. It often requires getting together with people you don't see very often.
If you are the parent of a transgender child, this can also mean people who haven't seen your child since they've come out. Or, maybe your child hasn't socially transitioned yet. Suddenly, you have to revert to using a name and pronouns that you have finally gotten out of the habit of saying. Worse, you might find yourself in the same space as someone who doesn't support the transgender community. What do you do in situations like these?
Know and set your boundaries ahead of time.
Psychology Today defines boundaries as "The limits we set with other people, which indicate what we find acceptable and unacceptable in their behavior towards us." As parents, this extends to what we find acceptable and unacceptable in other people's behavior toward our children, regardless of age.
People are unpredictable. The holiday season can bring up unresolved issues and grief for many people. This, in turn, can cause people to act poorly. Even those who would otherwise not under normal circumstances. Also, social gatherings can result in individuals being influenced by mob mentality, making different choices than they would have on their own. For example, if one person uses the wrong pronouns for a transgender person, everyone else continues to use those same pronouns. Even those people who think they may be incorrect in doing so.
By setting boundaries ahead of time, you decide what you will and will not tolerate regarding your child.
This looks like this:
Knowing when to say no. Practice responses to anticipated questions so that you know what you will say when the time comes. "I'm sorry, we won't be sending holiday cards this year." "George and Lisa will be coming to dinner, but Alex and I will have to miss it." Remember, no is a complete sentence. You do not owe anyone an explanation for anything.
Knowing when to stay home. You don't have to attend every event you get an invitation to. If you know unsupportive people will be in attendance, or your child feels anxious about being there, skip it. You should talk to your child about attending questionable events and leaving if they don't feel comfortable. Choose a word or phrase they can use to let you know they want to head home. This leads me to -
Knowing when to leave. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable with the conversation others are having or unsupported by the people in attendance at any social gathering, wish them well and leave. Feel free to make this decision on behalf of your child, as well.
Know your limits. Sometimes, for the sake of family harmony, you may put up with a little more than makes you comfortable. If you determine ahead of time what your limits are, you will know when someone has crossed the line and overstepped your boundaries. Then it's merely a matter of choosing what to do next. This should be easy if you have sorted out what each of the above steps looks like for you.
If you need help learning how to set and keep boundaries, here are some sources you might find helpful.
Courtney Burg teaches about healthy boundaries on her blog and Instagram page.
Psych Central has an article about building and preserving boundaries that you can read here.
Today's Parent has a great article about setting boundaries during the holidays. It includes doing a needs assessment of your family. You could use it to ensure that you are meeting everyone's social, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs before you say yes to a social event.
Is setting boundaries something you feel comfortable with? Or do you struggle to ensure you are meeting your needs and your family's needs? I'd love to continue the conversation in the comments.
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