Let’s Talk

Healthy Boundaries for the Christmas Season


Q.  Could you give us your “Top 5 Boundary Blessings” for the season?

A. Let’s talk about helping our hearts to have peaceful memories in this next week and in the next year. Several times this year I have said, “IT MATTERS what messages we take in and what messages we give others.” So, let’s do a quick review of boundary suggestions to bring blessings:

• If your boundaries (setting a limit and saying no) are too weak, you might be enabling the poor choices of others or even your own. We are called to serve others, but not be a Christmas doormat in our permissiveness.

• It is not healthy to assume the responsibilities of others. We rob others from learning responsibility if we take theirs on. Many of us are “fixers” and like feeling important with a rescue, but what is the message to others? Ask for help this season if you need it, and resist rescuing others who haven’t asked for help.

• If your boundaries are too harsh, you might be sending messages to others to not come near you. Could your anger, demands, or fragility be messages to others that create distance this season?

• It’s OK to say “no” to others if you have an “uh oh” feeling. Listen to the quiet voice inside you.

• It’s OK to say, “I can’t do this, but I can do this . . . .” Negotiate! Let your voice be loving and respectful – but firm. Is it hard for you to say no? In some families, the “no” word feels harsh; but if said respectfully, it helps families establish healthy limits. Is your message modeling a healthy verbal exchange for other family members? That’s a gift exchange!

[We’ll continue this theme in January 2014!]

For Deeper Reflection

This season is about messages, as the message of Jesus’ birth pushes back darkness. May the breaking through of finding your own place and voice be like the dawn following a long dark night. Be blessed by the following message, condensed from the December 2013 newsletter of Ransomed Heart Ministries. John Eldredge writes:

Whatever else Christmas might be, it is a demonstration beyond all doubt that God keeps His word – He intervenes. He promised He would come . . . and He came. On a cold night in Bethlehem, in a far corner of the Roman Empire, when His people had pretty much figured the Kingdom would never come, He came. We have to push back all the other holiday messages for a moment and simply let the reality of the Incarnation hit us fresh again. He said He would come, and He did.

He is coming, soon, once-and-for-all. Yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. If you haven’t spent time in the woods through the last hours of the night, you might be surprised to know that it tends to get very cold right before the dawn. It can be a bit disheartening for the uninitiated, if you do not know that the bitter chill is merely a sign that things are finally turning, and the night is about to fade away. Dawn is coming, warmth and light and beauty are coming even though it just got colder than it had been all night.

John 1:4-5 “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.”

Romans 13:12  “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”


Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.






  1. I love the negotiating technique as we attempt to set boundaries. The reflection on the gift of the Christmas season is the best reminder that God keeps His word.. . . always.

    • Yes, Jan! Great summary! Negotiating isn’t fighting, is it – but many in families have defaulted to a “no talk” rule because it feels uncomfortable to speak up. God longs for us to negotiate in love!