With the holiday season upon us, prepping to regulate familiar pain points during family get-togethers becomes as important as making pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. We’ve probably all experienced the personal hi-jacking of our adult self when responding to one of our parents or relatives. Setting healthy boundaries helps us manage these instances more productively.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s hard-wiring from childhood and it takes time to rewire its influence. Even highly integrated people fall into old behavior patterns, especially at this time of year.

That’s when Emotional Intelligence comes in. Part of EQ involves the emotional maturity to maintain differentiation from our parents when we become adults so we can behave in healthier ways when we see them.

The good news is, it can be done. It takes some time, and a bit more intentional awareness, but you’re capable of setting boundaries that protect your center.

So get ready to self-soothe like a pro and rewire your brain so you can maintain your calm and wholeness even in the face of potentially upsetting comments and conversations.

Here is a 3-step process to use with your parents and other relatives that help you set appropriate boundaries:

Step One:

When the negativity starts, take a diaphragmatic breath and silently affirm to yourself, “I am safe.”

Anything that upsets or triggers you stems from a perceived threat. This threat can be to your values, needs, or worth (VNW). Perceived threats create a parasympathetic response designed to keep you safe, in the form of fight, flight, or freeze.

Using a meaningful affirmation, along with a centering breath, is the first step to get you out of the amygdala and into the neocortex–home of the Wise Mind. Breathe and affirm, again and again, “I am safe.”

Step Two:

Ignore the comment or conversation completely. Remember, behaviors diminish more quickly without a reinforcer. Remove the pay-off. As soon as the person begins with the digging comment or life-depleting topic, shift the conversation to something else.

In a social setting, Manners First implies following the lead of a person who attempts to change a subject. If the person won’t follow your lead, break the chain by ignoring their comment and talking about something tangible, ie.”The centerpiece is very nice.” “The weather sure kicked up.”

If they persist, shift your environment by heading to the bathroom or another location for a few minutes.

Step Three:

If the person persists throughout the get-together, take a silent, slow cleansing breath and clearly say, with a kind intention and tone, “Thank you for sharing.” Broken-record this response as needed.

See the person as a small, innocent child, attempting to get their needs met. Do not change or increase your engagement, continue saying, “Thank you for sharing.” By saying this, you are acknowledging the person’s attempt to get their needs met–that is all.

This statement in no way implies agreement. It also helps you release your need to be understood by other people–which is a need of the ego only, not the true Self.

After saying, “Thank you for sharing,” Think of all the places in your life where you easily show up, seen, heard, understood, and loved as your true Self. Silently affirm to yourself, “I do not need to be seen and understood in this place.”

Silently send love to the person who attempts to get their needs met through you, as you clearly set and follow through on a boundary of non-engagement.