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Balancing acts: Setting boundaries in your Indian household

Updated: Apr 8

In an Indian family, the idea of setting boundaries might seem like a delicate dance between tradition and modernity. It might feel like a huge challenge because you fear the reaction or the dreaded guilt and shame that's likely to follow. After all, we all know the set up – grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins – it's a whole crew. This collectivistic nature means that there are shared responsibilities, deep-rooted customs and everyone seems to have an opinion on everything.

Although it might feel like an impossible task, setting boundaries is achievable and totally necessary. So what are some of the challenges and ways to overcome them in this nuanced terrain?

Inquisitive questioning: The art of dodging but being direct

There's often a natural curiosity in Indian families which can escalate into probing questions about your personal life. 'When are you getting married?' 'What's your career plan?'...sound familiar?

By practicing the skill of diplomacy you can preserve your privacy without ruffling any familial feathers. Responding with a positive tone but being clear that you can't discuss specific areas can communicate certain topics are off-limits. Gently redirecting questions can also work wonders, even though it might feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. For example, 'I'm taking time to figure it out. What are your thoughts on...?'

The dilemma of decision-making: Set expectations early

When making big decisions establishing expectations with family early on but also involving them in aspects of the process can foster mutual understanding. One way to do this is to define and set firm boundaries around your choices and where you would and wouldn't like their input. This clarity reinforces your own agency but sets the tone for a healthy balance between family involvement and personal autonomy.

Shared living areas and privacy: Claim your space

Living in a full house?  Finding your personal space can be like digging for gold – almost impossible. Elders might not fully grasp the concept of boundaries, but helping them understand why personal space is essential to you can help. Try to establish those invisible lines, whether it's a specific time or a cosy corner. If not straight away, over time it'll be recognised and respected as your personal bubble.

Culture clash: Embrace your individuality

Embracing your uniqueness in an Indian household involves a careful blend of self-expression, open communication and cultural understanding. Why? Because there's always a risk of being rejected if you go against the grain. Possibly due to a lack of understanding or perspective.

If your individuality involves choices or beliefs that differ from the family's norm, educating them and helping them understand your viewpoint can help. Change can take time so it's important to be patient and persistent – consistency in expressing yourself while being respectful of feelings is key.

When setting boundaries being direct doesn't necessarily mean being confrontational. Finding that sweet spot between tradition and addressing your own needs isn't easy. And if you feel frustrated and angry, remember that's valid  – but it could be a sign that the time has come where lines need to be drawn. This is a complex journey that requires patience, openness, mutual respect and clear communication. So go ahead, have those heart-to-hearts, find your cosy nook, be bold and set those boundaries.

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