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How to Deal with a Dysfunctional Family


Dysfunction comes in many forms and it’s never easy. Surviving a dysfunctional family on a normal day is hard enough, but during a pandemic, it is even more challenging. In most circumstances, your best option is to stay out of sight and try not to bring any trouble or attention to yourself. I found that not being home for the majority of my life meant less confrontation and less issue. Now there is almost no opportunity to remove yourself from any situation. So, let’s talk about how you can prevent problems and still survive.

Number one: build your space. Your space can be anywhere, but you have to make it your own. This allows an escape and provides some solace. Start with things that make you feel comfortable and safe. Most people use their bedrooms as their space, but anywhere where you are separate from your family works, as long as it is safe for you. The environment is what causes dysfunctional family situations to worsen; so, when you give yourself an environment to escape, make sure it is devoid of anything that would acerbate your stress.


My space in my house is all about art. I surround myself with my favorite, most precious books, warm colors, art, and music. When family visits I can retreat there and immediately feel more at ease because they are not in that space at all.

Music is also a huge help. Find music that helps reassure you, not perpetuate your hardships. The caveat here is that music is great to help you process. If you are upset or hurting, listening to something that makes you feel less alone is amazing. You can find validation in music which makes your isolation all that much more tolerable. Just remember that validation can lead to anger and resentment, so you have to balance it with empowerment. Music that inspires strength and confidence helps empower the decisions you have to make without support from your family. It reminds you that you are all you need.

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Above all, you have to breathe. Throughout every moment of every interaction or reminder; breathe. Blowing up, getting upset, or letting them affect your balance is not going to help anyone, so breathe. You can make it through this.

Family is a funny noun because it isn’t defined by blood. If your “family” isn’t helping you grow, then create your own. A support system is crucial but never feel obligated to ensure that support system is your family by blood. A new support system that works the way it should provide shoulders to cry on, people to challenge you to be better, and help you achieve your goals. This removes a lot of the reliance on family allowing you to be independent. Your independence is immeasurable and though it feels scary, it will open doors for you.

The last and final way to deal with a dysfunctional family is to let the guilt go. Your family will guilt you by not being involved and strangers will guilt you for being cold and cutting your family off. You aren’t being cold; you are being rational and making hard decisions to protect yourself. I know it can sometimes feel and even look selfish, but you aren’t selfish so let that go. No one knows your story or your family as you do, if you need to restrict contact then that is what you do. Do not let anyone guilt you into believing your actions are “wrong.”

No one’s family is perfect, and your family is no different from many others. You are doing the best you can with the situation you’ve been given. Embrace change and stay true to what is healthy, and my friend, breathe.

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