Your Guide on How To Deal with Toxic Family Members

5 important tips when dealing with an uncomfortable family situation

By Nurul Dina / 27 October 2021
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Dealing with uncomfortable family drama; Image via iStock


  • Anyone in your life can be toxic and this includes your family members
  • You don’t have to force yourself to accept their bad behaviours 
  • 5 important guides for you to deal with your toxic family members

“Why do you act that way?”

“It’s so hard to take care of you.”

“You’re too ugly, too fat, too skinny, and you have ugly hair.”

They are supposed to protect you from harm, to give you the support you need, to love you unconditionally and to be the last person on Earth to judge you for who you are. 


They are your family – the most important people in your life. Well, at least for most of us because not everyone is lucky enough to have families that can be a safe haven for them. Sometimes, as much as it hurts, you’re the only person you have and can trust. 

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re lucky enough to have gone through a wonderful upbringing, that’s perfect. Cherish it! But what about those whose families weren’t “picture perfect?”. It’s something that they have to deal with for the rest of their lives if those involved don’t change. 

While of course, we can’t force other people to change but what we can do is to prepare ourselves with valuable coping skills to handle your guilt-tripping grandma, nit-picky father, and even your alcoholic brother!

So here’s how. 


1/ Evaluate yourself and the situation


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Look deep inside you and evaluate before confronting; Image via iyarn


Tricky one, I know but the point in doing this is so you don’t put the blame on others without realising that you might be the cause of this or you might be the one who’s allowing them to be toxic to you. 

So go ahead and ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I allowing the toxic behavior from my family members to continue?
  • Do I see anything in my family member’s destructive ways that might remind me of my very own flaws?
  • Have I adequately expressed my feelings towards my toxic family members about their words or actions?
  • Have I unknowingly encouraged a loved one’s identity in my family dynamic? (For instance, do I continuously avoid my own problems to focus on the issues of another family member, making them our household scapegoat?)

Now once you’ve understood yourself better, it’s time to map out your family member’s toxic traits. It could be things like:

  • Excessive criticism
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Unrealistic demand
  • Lack of empathy

Understanding yourself is essential before you go ahead and deal with your family members. Because this will help you to properly navigate through this issue as well as communicate with them effectively when the time comes. 


2/ Know your limits


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Know when you should say enough is enough; Image via nadialarussa


People will treat you the way in which you allow them to treat you. This applies the same to those toxic family members of yours as they become accustomed to treating you in a certain manner. So until you know your limits and make it clear to them, things may not change. 

Hence if you wish to see changes and you wish to still visit your family members during the holidays without having to deal with the negativity, consider speaking about it and make sure you stick to it and accept no compromisation. Standing firm on your boundaries communicates that you will not accept not being respected, valued, and treated with the dignity you deserve.


3/ Learn to disengage


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Excuse yourself when you’re feeling disrespected; Image via Jordana Produtora


“I’ve set my boundaries and made them clear so why is it still happening.”

Well, I’m sorry to burst your innocent bubble but here’s the truth. People don’t change because you want them to change. They’ll change on their own account and you definitely don’t need to wait for that to happen.

Instead, what you can do when you find yourself in a situation where they’re triggering your emotions again is to learn how or when to end your interactions with them. It’s not productive to stick around and pretend like you’re okay when you’re not. Be the bigger person and protect your sanity by leaving the conversations right away. 


4/ Stay calm and sensible


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Keep calm and react wisely to an uncomfortable situation; Image via Priscilla Duu Preez


Naturally, humans tend to overreact when they’re faced with danger or an uncomfortable situation. This is what we call the fight-or-flight response, which is understandable but reacting to a situation without thinking it through will most probably not give you the outcome you desire. 

As the matured adults that we all are, I’d like to throw in some tips and that is: always be calm and sensible because that’s when you’ll have the utmost control of the situation. And controlling your own reactions is extremely useful when dealing with a poisonous family member. 

Be it through meditation or simply taking a few deep breaths, do everything you can to stay as calm as possible when interacting with your toxic family member. Yes, of course, it may be tempting to assert, criticise, or articulate your frustrations with a loved one in the heat of the moment, but in order to see your family member’s actions clearly, you must separate your emotions from your current position.


5/ A strong support system


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Talk to someone you trust or see a therapist; Image via emedicine health


Regrettably, toxic family members can cause stress, trauma, and mental health problems. For that reason, you may need strong support networks that can give you the accountability and emotional safety you need to navigate through any toxic relationship.


Remember that your mental health is as important as you are. 


Don’t be afraid to address the toxicity as it may have an impact on your mental and emotional health, as well as your physical health. Most importantly, you are valuable. Your very being deserves to be treated with dignity and you are the one who should be in charge of your life.

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