Media paints a picture of families that always get along no matter what. But for most people, that isn’t true. Every family has gone and goes through hard times that make it difficult to relate to each other. Some families find themselves falling into habits that do more permanent damage to the psyches of all involved. That’s when a family becomes toxic. The people involved don’t necessarily mean to hurt each other, but problems with communication and understanding lead to a lot of tension and resentment.
Often, there is hope, if the people involved really do care about each other underneath it all. In those cases, here are some things that might help:
1. Talk it out.
Nobody can read minds, and even people who know each other well can miss obvious cues when their minds are in different places. Taking time to talk about your concerns out loud and hearing each others’ side of the story can resolve the tension that might have accumulated.
2. Acts of kindness.
Along with talking things out, show your love for your family by doing small things that will let them know that you still care. This can be doing something together that the other person enjoys, such as watching mom’s favorite show with her. Or it can be doing a chore that somebody else normally does. If your brother hates mowing the lawn, do it for him one day.
Sometimes, especially when kids become teens and parents grow older, people can grow frustrated with the way things have been. They might want to set out on their own path.
In those cases, if it’s not possible for the kids in the family to move out, giving each other space might be the best way to do things. Work together to reestablish boundaries that will allow everybody their breathing space. Let people take time away from the house if they need it. Sometimes, people just need a break from each other, and that’s okay.
Sometimes, issues run deeper than that and not everybody in the family wants to fix things. In those cases, the important thing is to not let the negativity affect your growth.
4. Find a sanctuary.
Your sanctuary can be wherever you feel safest or most at ease in the house. For most people it’s their room, but everyone’s situation is different. Whatever the case, make sure you have a place where you can get away from the chaos as much as possible. If it’s your room, try to make it a reflection of you: your goals and passions. Then you can remind yourself of where you want your future to go even when the present seems to be weighing you down.
5. Keep a low profile.
It’s best not to get into unnecessary fights when you’re in a toxic environment. Try to do the best at whatever work you have to do and stay out of people’s ways. Don’t let yourself get dragged into arguments that don’t involve you, and don’t start unnecessary arguments. However, don’t become a doormat either. If you need to stand up for yourself, do so, but choose your battles wisely.
If your situation is unsafe, there are many resources available.
6. Cut ties if possible.
It doesn’t have to be permanent but distancing yourself from the negativity will help you clear your head and focus on your goals. If you’ve already moved out, try to avoid contact when you can. If you’re still living with your family, start saving up to move out. See if you can move in with a friend or trusted relative until you find your own place. Often, close friends are more like family than one’s “real” family. You don’t have to stick with people who don’t treat you well just because you happen to be related.
Sometimes families lose sight of what’s important and need a reminder. Sometimes problems were there from the beginning and the best thing to do is distance yourself. Whatever your situation is, you deserve happiness, and you will find it.
Keeping a low profile doesn’t ensure that conflict won’t arise. There are some family members who can find a fight with an inane comment like, “The weather is good today.” My WASband was one of those. In a family where such a personality exists, it’s maybe best to seek professional help.