The pandemic lifestyle has limited our ability to engage with the real world, and spend time away from home. For many of us, we now spend 24/7 with family members, when we are used to being away at school or work. This is not a normal way of functioning, and can place LOTS of undue stress on family relationships. Especially if there were issues prior to the pandemic, underlying resentment is destined to explode when you see the same person sitting on the same couch, day after day.
This frustration is compounded by financial and psychological stress caused by the pandemic. When unhealthy relationships devolve into emotional or physical abuse, where do you turn? Is it your job to support your parents and siblings, no matter what? Below, I’ve highlighted my five main guidelines when dealing with a toxic family.
1. You are allowed to walk away
Now, I know this isn’t feasible for every situation, especially if you are a minor, or are in a financial bind. However, once you reach 18-years-old, and save up enough funds, you are allowed to leave. You don’t need to subject yourself to abuse and anguish for the sake of family bonds. Listen to your instincts. If your heart is telling you it’s time to go, don’t deny yourself that freedom.
2. You are allowed to set boundaries
Your time is your time. Your space is your space. Your energy is your energy. Nobody is entitled to that, not even your family members. Set specific boundaries in your life to allow for personal time, healing, and restoration. You're not required to heave the emotional burden of your family members’ struggles at every hour of the day.
3. You don’t have to be a savior during every crisis
You are not superman, or a firefighter, or a police officer. Nobody is requiring you to mediate a conflict! Allow yourself to walk away from a situation, and recognize that no amount of labor will instantly mend deep-rooted issues. You don’t have to be on call like a surgeon, 24 hours a day. You are a single person with a limited capacity. Reserve some love and energy for your own self-care.
4. You don’t need to explain your situation
Not everyone is entitled to an explanation of your personal family situation. You don’t need to unpack your mother’s “insane” behavior, or your father’s absence, with every curious acquaintance. These are difficult, deeply vulnerable issues that require a trusting friend’s support. Not everyone will understand your situation, especially if they come from stable homes. You don’t owe anyone a detailed history of your family’s timeline!
5. You don’t need their approval to be successful
Yes, validation is comforting, but it is definitely not necessary to be successful. Your family members may not support your every decision, but you know what’s best for you. Trudge forward into the future, and fight for yourself! A toxic family can weigh you down, and plaster you to an unproductive, monotonous life. Don’t let the burden of their chaos prevent you from thriving.
Overall, family issues are inherently sensitive, and require a different approach in every situation. At the end of the day, make yourself a priority when assessing your relationships. That doesn’t necessarily mean cutting ties with your family (although, it could!). However, productive growth could entail setting new boundaries within yourself, and with those around you. Take care of mind and body, invest in your future, and remember that these seemingly insurmountable obstacles CAN be overcome. And a brighter future lies ahead.
Written By: Brianna Rauchman